Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santi Giovanni e Paolo

We walk north and via the Calle Lunga S. Maria Formosa and the Calle Pinelli we arrive at the S. Giovanni e Paolo. Right where the Calle Pinelli crosses the Rio de Santa Marina, we can see to our right that the rio splits up into two. This also marks the location of a wild movie chase where 007 tries to shake off his pursuers.

Rio de Santa Marina       Palazzo Tetta

Rio de Santa Marina Venice
photos: Didier Descouens and Palazzo Tetta: Diana Robinson

From the S. Giovanni e Paolo we first walk west towards the S. Maria dei Miracoli.

Campo Santa Maria dei Nova       Zoom in

Campo Santa Maria dei Nova  Venice
photos: Hervé Simon and zoom: Michael Day

Facade       Side

The Santa Maria dei Miracoli was restored in 1997 and counts as one of Pietro Lombardo’s masterpieces. He was a sculptor who managed a thriving workplace in fifteenth century Venice. The exterior of the church is purely renaissance by design, incorporating classic elements.

 Santa Maria dei Miracoli  facade
photos: Wolfgang Moroder; side: Kathryn Blaire Moore

Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Santa Maria dei Miracoli: exterior apse
photo: Graeme Churchard

Entrance       Mary and Child

 Santa Maria dei Miracoli: portal
photos: gkert and Didier Descouens

Saint      Sea creatures and a skull

“A precious jewel box of a building, the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli was erected by local citizens to house a miracle-working image of the Madonna. The exterior revetment, composed of carefully balanced rectangles, arches, and circles, evokes the splendour of Venice’s most important civic church, St Mark’s. Porphyry placed to either side of the doorway and fashioned into cruciform patterns and decorative roundels higher up on the façade confirm the church’s high status, as does the use of the lavish Corinthian and Ionic orders, playfully rendered and positioned without regard to classical rules that expected the Corinthian, not the Ionic order, to occupy the upper story. Carvings of griffins and sea creatures mingle equally freely with busts of saints and angels.” Cited from Web Gallery of Art

The facade is divided into two orders, crowned with an architrave. Friezes and multi-coloured marble are incorporated into geometric shapes that decorate the outside of the building. This marble splendour carries on to the interior, the choir is decorated with sculpted figures in the balustrades. All of this to worship the high altar with a Madonna, painted by Pietro Paradisi (1409). Originally, the painting of the Madonna was meant to be attached to the wall of a residential home, but after the attribution of various miracles to the artwork in 1480, this led to a number of tithes that were to pay for the construction of a church. Pietro Lombardo thus was commissioned with building a church for the Madonna. He constructed a honey-coloured church, often compared with a jewellery box. A moat was dug out to protect to miraculous painting.

 Santa Maria dei Miracoli: wall

Santa Maria dei Miracoli       Zoom in      Niccolò di Pietro ‘Madonna’      Ceiling

 Santa Maria dei Miracoli: interior
photos: Didier Descouens and ceiling: Reading Tom
Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Santi Giovanni e Paolo

We return to one of the most important churches in the city, the S. Giovanni e Paolo. In front of the church we see an equestrian statue, Colleoni, by Andrea del Verrocchio (1483-1485).

Canaletto ‘Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo’ 1736-1740
Luigi Querena ‘Campo di San Giovanni e Paolo’

Canaletto 'Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo'
Santi Giovanni e Paolo facade Venice
photo: Wolgang Modorer

Entry Portal of Bon Bartholomeo and Giovanni

Santi Giovanni e Paolo: Portal Bon Bartholomeo  Giovanni
photo: Didier Descouens

The Santi Giovanni e Paolo competes with the Santa Maria Glorioso for the title of ‘largest gothic church’ of the city and is also known as the San Zanipolo. The church was constructed between 1333 and 1430. The high central nave has remarkable crossed vaults, supported by wooden beams. The large space has an imposing character due to its architectural simplicity.

Santi Giovanni e Paolo       High altar      Apse

Santi Giovanni e Paolo: nave Venice
photos :MatthiasKabel; altar and apse: Zairon
Santi Giovanni e Paolo: nave Venice
photos: Didier Descouens; apse: w1ld0n3

Santi Giovanni e Paolo nave      Apse exterior

The church was constructed according to the basilica model, with four chapels in the choir. The highly placed windows give the choir a lot of light intensity. The facade was never completed, the entrance portal is flanked by six Greek pillars with byzantine embossing in a composition by sculptor Bartolomeo Bon. The facade has three (tomb of Marino Contarini) of the twenty-five Doge graves, which make this church a worthwhile visit.

Pietro and Tullio Lombardo
‘Burial monument Doge Pietro Mocenigo’

From the 15th century, the Santi Giovanni e Paolo was the place where Doges had themselves buried, so it’s hardly surprising that these burial monuments first served to glorify those who had died, instead of filling a religious role like we’d expect in a church. Based on these graves, we can have a closer, admiring look at burial art and the traditions involved in setting up a burial monument. Another artist who was heavily involved with this church was Pietro Lombardo, during the last quarter of the fifteenth century he produced four burial monuments along with his sons Antonio and Tullio. The nudes depicted by Tullio on the sides of his burial monument were later replaced by properly dressed saints, namely St. Catherina and Mary Magdalene (Wikipedia: Monuments). 

Santi Giovanni e Paolo: Pietro and Tullio Lombardo  ‘Burial monument Doge Pietro Mocenigo'
photo: Didier Descouens

A large fire struck the church in 1867, leaving many artworks by famous artists like Bellini and Titian severely damaged or completely destroyed, like the ceiling paintings in the Cappella del Rosario by Paolo Veronese.

Giovanni Bellini ‘Polyptych of Vincenzo Ferrer’ 1460-1465

Giovanni Bellini ‘Polyptych of Vincenzo Ferrer’
G. Bellini ‘Angel in Polyptych of Vincenzo Ferrer’  


Bellini’s inaugural public commission was the creation of the polyptych of St Vincent Ferrer, skillfully executed for the dedicated altar of the saint within the Venetian basilica of St John and St Paul. The composition consists of a total of nine panels, organized into three distinct sections. Above, there is a depiction of the Pietà with the Virgin, accompanied by the Angel of the Annunciation on either side. In the central section, the titular saint is portrayed, flanked by St Christopher and St Sebastian. Finally, the predella showcases five miracles attributed to the saint. The painting was once adorned with a lost lunette at its top.

Johann Carl Loth (1691) copy of Titian’s The Assassination of Saint Peter Martyr
In 1528 nam Titiaan deel aan een wedstrijd samen met Il Pordenone en Palma il Vecchio. De wedstrijd was bedoeld voor de opdracht van een groot altaarstuk, dat het martelaarschap van de heilige Petrus de Martelaar moest afbeelden. Het altaarstuk was bestemd voor het altaar van de broederschap van die heilige in San Zanipolo, het voornaamste Dominicaanse centrum in Venetië. Titiaan werd geselecteerd voor de opdracht, deels omdat de Dominicanen niet wilden worden overtroffen door de franciscanen, die al Titiaans Hemelvaart en het Pesaro-altaarstuk hadden, beide te bewonderen in de basiliek dei Frari. Het voltooide kunstwerk werd op 27 april 1530 afgeleverd. Vrij vertaald uit Wikipedia

Johann Carl Loth (1691) copy of Titian’s The Assassination of Saint Peter Martyr
photo: Didier Descouens

Titian ‘Self-Portrait’ c. 1546 – 1547

“Vasari’s Lives of the Artists states of it “[the work] is more complete, more celebrated and more great than any other [work] Titian produced in his whole life, the one showing the best understanding and technique”. The work was a major influence on later artists, such as the figure of Saint Matthew in Caravaggio’s The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and the red-cloaked Roman soldier on the left of Annibale Carracci’s Resurrection, which are based on Titian’s figures of Peter and the fleeing brother respectively. […]
One of the last people to see the work before the fire was Gaetano Milanesi: of this painting, one can repeat what has been said about [the same artist’s] Assumption – that it is one of the most beautiful [paintings] in the world’ Gaetano Milanesi, edizione critica delle Vite di Vasari, 1881″. Cited from Wikipedia

Continuation Venice day 5: San Giorgio dei Greci and Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni