Also known as the Duomo di Murano, the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato is one of the oldest buildings in the Venetian lagoon. Of byzantine conception, the church preserves the relics of Saint Donatus of Arezzo, martyred in the 4th century after Christ, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Iulianus.
A document from the year 999 shows that the church had been built in the 7th century, when many refugees from the continent arrived on the Murano Island.
Initially, it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and later, in 1125, when the relics of St. Donatus were brought from Cephalonia, it received a second patronage.
The church, apparently, has been rebuilt at that time, in a Byzantine style, in the form that resisted, to a large extent, until today. The mosaic inside is marked with the year 1141, when these reconstruction works were completed.
In the 18th century, the church was redecorated in Baroque style and later, between 1858 and 1873, a return to its original style was attempted. This development of the building was condemned by several voices, because the result was a hybrid between the 12th century style and the later one.
The last restoration of the church from the ‘70s made the return to its original form, removing unwanted elements from the last centuries.
The western facade, where is the main entrance of the church, is flat, and its simplicity contrasts with the other facade, oriented towards the San Donato Canal, which offers an architectural ensemble enriched with Byzantine columns.
Inside, the Latin cross of the church is also defined by Venetian-Byzantine style columns, and the superb polychrome mosaic restored in the ’70s can be admired in all its splendor.
TIP: Behind the altar, you can observe four large bones, at least 1 meter long, hanging from wires. According to legend, they once belonged to a dragon who was slain by Saint Donatus in Greece.
HOW TO GET THERE
The church is on Murano and there are several vaporetto routes available to the island – ACTV Line 3, Line 4.1, Line 4.2, Line 13 and Line 18. The closest station is Museo, where the waterbuses number 3, 4.1 and 4.2 are stopping.