There are many churches in Venice, and many are beautiful, but few impress like the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. It may be the place, because not many churches have their own island, or it may be the bell-tower, probably second in height after the one in the Saint Mark’s Square, but we can easily believe that, among all, the inspiration of Andrea Palladio matters probably the most.
In 982, the Doge Tribuno Memmo donated the island of San Giorgio Maggiore to a benedictine monk, who will establish here a monastery. The church, built five years later, from brick and wood, will last until 1223, when it will be severely damaged by an earthquake. The Doge Pietro Ziani will fix it, only to retreat to the island a few years later.
In 1109, the relics of St. Stephen will be brought here from Constantinople, and the annual celebration held on 26 December, on the saint’s day, will become one of the most popular Christian holidays in the Venetian calendar.
The church we see today was begun by Andrea Palladio in 1565 and completed after his death, in 1610. The one who finished the project was, apparently, Vincenzo Scamozzi, who took over several works started by Palladio, as a scholar of the great architect.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
Palladio’s construction is practically a compromise between the drawing of a classical temple and a Christian church. The façade oriented towards San Marco is basically developing a previous project, that of the Church of San Francesco della Vigna.
Inside, there are high-value paintings, starting with works of art by Jacopo Tintoretto and by his son, Dominico Tintoretto, and continuing with the works of Jacopo Palma il Giovane, Jacopo Bassano and Sebastiano Ricci. Unfortunately, Paolo Veronese’s Wedding in Cana was taken from the church during Napoleon’s time, now being exhibited in Paris, at the Louvre.
The church served as the source of inspiration for great artists, such as Claude Monet, Francesco Guardi and, of course, Canaletto.
HOW TO GET THERE
You can reach San Giorgio Maggiore Island with the waterbuses of ACTV Line 2, which you can board at the San Zaccaria Station, near Piazza San Marco.