All the best churches in Venice, divided into city areas...
Church of San Simeon Piccolo
This imposing church is located opposite the Santa Lucia train station. The Church of San Simeon Piccolo was built at the beginning of the 18th century and was intended to be a copy of the Pantheon in Rome; this is why it has a large green dome, with the statue of San Salvatore on the top. This building has been used as an auditorium for concerts for some time now.
Church of San Stae
The Church of San Stae was built on the wishes of the Doge Alvise Mocenigo around 1709. Its façade is full of marble decorations and inside there are several paintings. The sculptors involved in producing these decorations were Tarsia, Torretto, Baratta and Groppelli. The designer and the builder of the church interior was the architect Giovanni Grassi. The church has a central aisle, a vaulted ceiling and three chapels on each side.
Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
This large Gothic church, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is one of the most imposing religious buildings in Venice. It was built by the minor monks of the Franciscan order, known as Frari, thanks to a donation from the Doge Jacopo Tiepolo. The first version of the church was completed in 1338, and was much smaller than the current one. Other donations from important Venetian families provided for the church to be expanded and decorated. However, this church was demolished at the beginning of the 15th century to build a new one, using a enormous amount of bricks dotted with white marble decorations. The severe, imposing façade is built in a late Gothic style and is divided into three parts with Venetian-Byzantine capital-topped pillars. The interior is just as magnificent: the church is built on a Latin cross pattern, with a central aisle and side aisles, divided by twelve massive pillars. There are many works of art by important painters such as Tiziano, Palma il Giovane and Piazzetta in the church. The ancient convent and oratory house the city’s archives: there are 15 million volumes that contain the Serenissima’s entire history.
Church of San Giacometto
Popular tradition considers the church of San Giacometto to be the oldest church in Venice. It was built thanks to the belief and talent of a carpenter from Crete around the 5th century, just when the first people settled on this group of islands. The church is very small but very pretty and charming. There is a large clock on the façade, built in 1410.
Basilica della Salute
On October 22nd 1630, during the terrible plague that struck Venice, the Doge Nicolò Contarini publicly declared that a church would be built in the name of Health (salute) as a vow to end the scourge. A year later, in 1631, the plague was wiped out and the Basilica della Salute was opened in 1687.
Eleven plans for the church were presented and the one designed by Baldassare Longhena was chosen. The design included a huge façade that reminds one of the Palladium, with a wonderful huge door in the center. The façade was lifted with a number of steps to give the church an even greater sense of grandeur. The interior is incredibly charming due to the severe majesty of its size. It has the central area on an octagonal plan. On the sides, there are a corresponding number of arches divided up by columns. There are a number of works of art inside the church too: Pentecost, San Rocco and San Sebastiano, David and Goliath and Cain and Abel by Tiziano; The Marriage of Canaan by Tintoretto and Jonah and Samson by Palma il Giovane.
Church of the Santi Giovanni and Paolo
The Church of the Santissimi Giovanni and Paolo is dedicated to the two Roman brothers who became martyrs in Rome in the 2nd century. In 1234, the order of Dominican monks began to build this church which was then finished almost two centuries later. This large church is built in religious Gothic style. Its façade is built in three parts, with a central rose and two round side openings. The lower part of the façade is decorated with a series of Gothic arches and two sarcophaguses of Marco Michiel and Daniele Marco Bon, on the right and of the Doge Jacopo Tiepolo and his son Lorenzo on the left. The church interior is built on a Latin cross pattern. It is full of Doges’ and other important figures’ funeral monuments and also contains works of art by Lombardo, Piazzetta and other artists from the Bellini school.
Church of Santa Maria Formosa
The Church of Santa Maria Formosa is one of the eight churches built in the 7th century by San Magno, the Bishop of Oderzo. Legend goes that the Virgin Mary appeared to him in the form of a shapely, matron. The church was built several times over the centuries: in 1668 the church was rebuilt after it was damaged during an earthquake and after several renovations, the last reconstruction of the entire building was carried out in the period 1916 to 1921, using funds provided by the government and by Count Venier. The Baroque church tower was built in 1668 and was designed by Francesco Zucconi. The façade of the church that faces the canal was built using money donated by the Cappello family, in honor of Captain Vincenzo Cappello, who defeated the Turks. The church’s interior was decorated by Mauro Coducci and is built according to the Latin cross pattern over the previous Greek cross foundations. It has a central aisle and side aisles, a choir, transepts with cross vaults and a hemispherical dome. The church is also home to some wonderful paintings by Bartolomeo Vivarini, Palma il Giovane and Palma il Vecchio.
Church of the Pietà
Church of San Giorgio Dei Greci
The Church of San Giorgio dei Greci was built starting from 1539, as soon as the Greeks obtained permission to build a church and a school from the Republic. The Church of San Giorgio dei Greci was completed by Chianantonio and was consecrated in 1561. The church’s interior is truly magnificent: the hemispherical dome is worthy of note, with its center covered in frescoes by G. di Cipro.
The church was built in the 15th century according to a design by Giorgio Massari and was consecrated in 1760. The building is one of the elegant and striking from the 18th century. There is a wonderful fresco by Tiepolo on the ceiling of the main entrance: Fortitudine e Pace, one of this greatest masterpieces. The frescoes that adorn the choir ceiling, which make up the Trionfo della Fede, are also worthy of note. Here Tiepolo has excelled himself, painting the Glory of Paradiso.
St Mark's Basilica
This wonderful church was built in 829 to contain the remains of Saint Mark, the city’s patron saint and was consecrated in 1024. It has been renovated and decorated several time over the centuries and the Basilica is most certainly the most spectacular church in the city. Its main façade is unique. It has five arched doorways, a long terrace that are home to four bronze horses that came from the booty from the 4th crusade of the infidels. Its bas-relief work is in Byzantine style. The interior is just as sumptuous as the outside. The marble floor has a striking geometric pattern and there are splendid mosaics on the walls that tell stories from the New Testament.
San Marco Bell Tower
The San Marco Bell Tower was built in the 9th century. It was originally used as a lookout tower and as a lighthouse. It was rebuilt in 1100 and it was then completed in the 16th century under the guidance of the architect Bon. It was rebuilt in a Renaissance style while maintaining the original structure. In 1902, the bell tower fell down but fortunately there were no tragic consequences. Venice decided to rebuild it “as it was and where it was” and 10 years later the new bell tower, an exact copy of the original, was ready: the tower is square, built in brick. It is 12 meters wide and 98.6 meters high and is closed on top with a pyramid-shaped point. On the top there is a golden angel about 2 meters high. The bell tower has played an essential role in the political and social life of the city for centuries. The bells were rung to inform the city’s inhabitants of all the main events organized in Venice. At the foot of the bell tower there were popular wine sellers who moved around to stay under the bell tower’s shade depending on the time of day. This ancient custom is where the term that the Venetians use for a glass of wine comes from: ombra (shade in Italian).
The Jesuits’ Church
The church’s façade is a perfect example of Baroque style from the beginning of the 18th century. The church is built to a Latin cross and the columns inside are topped by statues of the twelve Apostles created by various sculptors during the 17th and 18th centuries. The church also contains frescoes by Palma il Giovane, Tiziano and Sansovino. After the Jesuit Order was suppressed in 1773, the convent was used as a public school and then as army barracks in 1807. The Church was handed back to the Jesuits when the Order was reinstated by Pius VII in 1814.
Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
The Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli is almost hidden in between two ancient palaces. It was built between 1481 and 1489 by Lombardo to protect the sacred image of the “Vergine tra due Santi”, that was first kept in Angelo Amadi’s tabernacle who lived in a courtyard nearby and which is now subject to pilgrimages and donations. The church’s façade is completely covered in marble that, so tradition says, comes from the remains of the work on the Basilica of San Marco. The church’s interior is decorated in hues of pale pink, silver, grey and white and there is still the original bas-relief work with mermaids, the God Triton, animals, flowers and other pictures. The "Vergine tra due Santi" stands above the church’s altar.
The ancient Church of the Santissimi Apostoli stands in Campo dei Santi Apostoli, where it was built in the 9th century. The current building is the result of lots of renovation work carried out during the 18th century. Legend has it that the spot on which the Church stands was one of the first places in Venice where refugees from the mainland came to live. There are several wonderful frescoes inside the church: The “Comunione di Santa Lucia” by Tiepolo and the large panel painted by Francesco Canal that is on the ceiling, showing the Communion of the Apostles, the Celebration of the Eucharist and four ovals to the side showing the Evangelists.
Church of the Madonna dell’Orto
The Church of the Madonna dell’Orto was built around the middle of the 15th century by Fra’ Tiberio da Parma and took the name of Madonna dell’Orto due to the ancient picture of the Virgin that was found in a garden nearby and which was then taken to the church. Building on the church lasted for about one century and the result was extremely worthy of note: the façade is still the best example today of Venetian Gothic architecture from the 15th century. The row of niches that were originally galleries that ran down the wings of the building, now hold the statues of the twelve Apostles. Inside there is a nave with no transept and side aisles with chapels that are separated by two rows of Greek marble columns. The picture of the “Vergine con Bambino” that gives the church its name hangs alongside the Chapel of San Mauro and is a fine example of art work from the 14th century made from soft stone. Inside there are frescoes by Palma il Giovane, Ponzone and Tintoretto.