San Pietro’s Church in Castello
Positioned on the small island of Olivolo, in a strategic position towards the East and protected to the North and the South by two strips of land which forms a small bay, there is the beautiful church of San Pietro di Castello. This used to be the site of the religious authority for all the duration of the Republic of Venice.
The name of the island “Olivolo” seems to come from the presence of a small olive grove or from the shape of the island which resembles an olive.
The church was rebuilt in 1120 after a great fire which destroyed the previous building. The new building was created with three naves, with a tripartite facade and semi-circular apses, with a cloister, the archbishop palace and the baptistery. In the XVI the church was renovated by Palladio. He managed to take care of the facade of the building until his death in 1580. The renovation was completed by his followers in 1621: the facade and the church tower are covered by beautiful white Istrian Stone. The church tower is separated from the church, in a lonely position and the archbishop palace is instead connected directly to the body of the church. Coming up from Castello, the complex looks like a big fortress complete with wooden bridge.
Unfortunately since 1807 the church is no longer the head office of the authority of Venice, which has moved to San Marco. This area relives its splendor on its Patron Saint Day, when all locals aboard their boats parade in the canal at the front of the church.
Walk to the end of Via Garibaldi and you will find an old forgotten Venice, just like that you can till see in very old black and white photos of the city: free of tourists and souvenirs shops, full of residents, clothes hanging in the air and children running around playing hide and seek.
The construction of this church started in 1591 by Vincenzo Scamozzi, using a revised model of Palladio. The grand Corinthian facade was built by Andrea Tirali between 1706 and 1714. The building was not finished by Scamozzi, probably because of his excessive spending and his building methods which the friars, who commissioned the job, disagreed with. This created big gossip during those times, mainly because Scamozzi used to go and complain with Baldassare Longhena‘s father, the stone cutter Melchisedech, who owned a shop where all the major famous Venetian artists used to go to. Eventually the building was completed in 1602. It is made up of only one nave with three side chapels. The splendor of the facade is due to the annual visit which the doge used to make on San Gaetano’s day, thanking the Saint for the good outcome of the war which started on San Gaetano’s day and which brought Venice the conquest of Morea, Corinth and Athens.
Nowadays the convent on the side of the church is the site of the University Institute di Architecture.
The Church of the Gesuati
Three great artists have contributed to making the large church of Santa Maria del Rosario, which stands on the Fondamenta delle Zattere and is popularly known as the Gesuati, into a temple of Rococo: the architect Giorgio Massari, the painter Giambattista Tiepolo and the sculptor GianMaria Morlaiter.
In the construction of this church, erected between 1726 and 1735, the predominant role was played by the architect who designed also its rich internal fitting. In its design Massari used the suggestions made to him by the Dominican iconographers of the monastery, who wanted to exalt devotion to the Rosary and celebrate the glories of their order. Tiepolo painted three main scenes on the ceiling of the nave, representing the Appearance of the Virgin to St.Dominic, the Institution of the Rosary and the Glory of St.Dominic. GianMaria Morlaiter sculpted 8 sculptures and carved 6 reliefs, representing saints and scenes from the life of Christ.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was founded in 1478. It was built following the recurrent outbreaks of plague that devastated the city in the 14th and 15th centuries, on a design by Bartolomeo Bon. The work on the construction dragged on for a long time, mainly due to disputes with the architect, who was dismissed in 1524. He was first replaced by Sante Lombardo and then by Scarpagnino. It was officially completed in 1560. At this point the problem of the pictorial decoration of the building arose. Titian had already offered to paint a picture, but the members of the confraternity decided to hold a public competition to which took part Veronese, Salviati and Zuccari. But Tintoretto donated to the Scuola a canvas representing the Glorification of St. Roch, thus laying the foundation for a privileged relationship with the institution. The competition was canceled and Tintoretto was entrusted with decorating the ceiling of the second floor, which he completed in just three years. On the walls he painted Scenes of the Passion. In celebration of this great pictorial undertaking the Scuola Grande di San Rocco has been described as “Tintoretto’s Sistine Chapel”, for certain it represents one of the highest achievements in Venetian art of any age.
The massive complex of Frari dominates the east part of San Polo with its essential Gothic forms, underlined by the use of red brick. It was built between 1340 and 1443 by the Franciscan monks. The severe facade dominates the scene, but the inside astonishes for his grandeur and it rich of works of art: the Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro by Titian, the San Giovanni Battista by Donatello, a statue by Sansovino, the monument to Canova.