Old And Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace

Please Select Search Type:
Antiques Digest Browse Auctions Appraisal Home

Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Some Venetian Churches

[Venice - First Impressions]  [The Story Of Venice]  [The Stones Of Venice]  [The Painters Of Venice]  [The Heart Of Venice]  [St Mark's Church]  [The Doges' Palace]  [The Grand Canal]  [Some Venetian Churches]  [Venetian Islands]  [More Articles About Venice] 

( Originally Published Mid-1900's )

Ruskin describes no fewer than eighty-eight churches in Venice. The reader will be relieved to learn that I have no intention of following his example. I shall confine myself in this chapter to those churches which no wise traveller can afford to omit. Of such churches those that are on the Grand Canal, notably La Salute, have been described already in the previous chapter.

The Frari

The Frari, or to give it its full name, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, was built by the Franciscans. It was begun about 1250, opened for service in 128o, and rebuilt during 1330-1417. "At the first glance," writes Mr E. V. Lucas, it is a barn built of millions of bricks ; but if you give it time it grows into a most beautiful Gothic church with lovely details, such as the corbelling under the eaves, the borders of the circular windows, and still more delightful borders of the long windows, and so forth ; while its campanile is magnificent.

On my first visit to this church I wasted a great deal of time trying to discover, in what I believed to be the west end of the church, the monument which Ruskin describes as being in the west end. I assumed, rather naturally, that the high altar marked the east end, forgetting that in Venice there are churches which are not orientated toward the east: the Frari, for example, points to the north-west.

To an architect the apse of this church is the most interesting part of the building. "The real root of the Ducal Palace," writes Ruskin,is the apse of the Church of the Frari. The traceries of that apse, though earlier and ruder in workmanship, are nearly the same in mouldings, and precisely the same in treatment (especially in the placing of the lions' heads), as those of the great Ducal Arcade.

In the apse of the church they form narrow and tall window lights, somewhat more massive than those of Northern Gothic, but similar in application.

This apse is best seen from the door of the Scuola di San Rocco.

The interior of this church contains a great many famous paintings. Titian's Assumption is considered to be one of his greatest masterpieces. I quote the tribute of an admirer, Mr Berenson:

In the Assumption . . . the Virgin soars heavenward, not helpless in the arms of angels, but borne up by the fullness of life within her, and by the feeling that the universe is naturally her own, and that nothing can check her course. The angels seem to be there only to sing the victory of a human being over his environment. They are embodied joys, acting on our nerves like the rapturous outburst of the orchestra at the end of Parsifal.

The Pesaro Madonna is considered by Ruskin to be the best Titian in Venice. He draws attention to the powers of portraiture and disciplined composition shown in it, placing it far above the showy masses of commonplace cherubs and merely picturesque men in the Assumption.

The Pesaro Madonna is of very special interest in the history of art, for it represents a revolutionary departure from accepted principles of design. It should be compared carefully with the altar-piece by Bellini in the sacristy of the same church. In this altar-piece, which is an excellent example of the symmetrical medieval arrangement, theMadonna in thecentre is balanced by a saint on each side. Titian, as Dr Powers remarks, was not satisfied to work within the limits of the medieval strait-jacket. He knew that a picture must not be lop-sided; balance was necessary, but Titian felt that he could not express the "mobility, the spontaneity, and the passion of human life" if he was restricted to the severe symmetry of medieval design, or even to the triangular group which Florence had inherited from Leonardo and which Bellini sometimes employed. An admirable example of triangular composition is the Madonna of the Meadow in the National Gallery, which, if not from the hand of Giovanni Bellini, as I should like to believe, is at least the work of his School.

The Pesaro Madonna is a type of composition which owed nothing to the symmetrical medieval design or to the triangular design. It is a composition in the form of a letter X, the four extremities of which are represented by a brilliantly painted flag, the Madonna, and the two groups of the Pesaro family. St Peter is in the centre of the X.

The Pesaro Madonna is undoubtedly a great masterpiece, but to me, at least, it is far less attractive and certainly less charming than the delightful Bellini altarpiece in the sacristy, the painting which was described by Ruskin as " the most finished and delicate example of the Master in Venice."

The Frari church is important not only for its great paintings, but also for its tombs; indeed, both the Frari and the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo contain tombs of the greatest possible interest, not only as examples of the sculptor's art throughout the centuries, but also as human documents which record, unconsciously, but none the less surely, the gradual loss of a living faith in immortality. Let me summarize briefly what Ruskin had to say on this subject.' In the ages of faith tombs were simple, severe, and solemn. No attempt was made to disguise the fact of death, for the belief in immortality was universal. The thirteenth-century tomb confessed the power and accepted the "peace of death openly and joyfully."

In the second chapel, counting from right to left at the west end-i.e., the high-altar end, which would normally be the east end-of the Frari there is a perfect example of an early Gothic tomb.

It is a knight's ; but there is no inscription upon it, and his name is unknown. It consists of a sarcophagus, supported on bold brackets against the chapel wall, bearing the recumbent figure, protected by a simple canopy in the form of a pointed arch, pinnacled by the knight's crest ; beneath which the shadowy space is painted blue, and strewn with stars. The statue itself is rudely carved ; but its lines, as seen from the intended distance, are both tender and masterly. . . . The appearance of the entire tomb is as if the warrior had seen the vision of Christ in his dying moments, and had fallen back peacefully upon his pillow, with his eyes still turned to it, and his hands clasped in prayer.

In those times there was no attempt to disguise the form of the sarcophagus, but as the "pride of life became more insolent, the fear of death became more servile." The tomb lost its four-square form, and gradually became

a mere pedestal or stage for the portrait statue. This statue, in the meantime, has been gradually coming back to life, through a curious series of transitions. The Vendramin monument is one of the last which shows, or pretends to show, the recumbent figure laid in death. A few years later, this idea became disagreeable to polite minds ; and, lo ! the figures, which before had been laid at rest upon the tomb pillow, raised themselves on their elbows, and began to look round them. The soul of the sixteenth century dared not contemplate its body in death. . . .

The statue, however, did not long remain in this partially recumbent attitude. Even the expression of peace became painful to the frivolous and thoughtless Italians, and they required the portraiture to be rendered in a manner that should induce no memory of death. The statue rose up, and presented itself in front of the tomb, like an actor upon a stage, surrounded now not merely, or not at all, by the Virtues, but by allegorical figures of Fame and Victory, by genii and muses, by personifications of humbled kingdoms and adoring nations, and by every circumstance of pomp, and symbol of adulation, that flattery could suggest, or insolence could claim.

Of this type of tomb there are many examples in Venice, of which the grossest is the monument to the Doge Giovanni Pesaro in the Frari. This monument is supported by four gigantic negro caryatides, among which the Doge stands "with arms extended, like an actor courting applause." Underneath the statue is the following inscription:


It is indeed impossible, as Ruskin remarks, "for false taste and base feeling to sink lower." Among the many beautiful things to be admired in the Frari may be mentioned the wooden statue of John the Baptist by Donatello, several good paintings by Vivarini, the monument to Jacopo Marcello, the admiral, the equestrian statue of Savello, the tomb of Bernardo (" nothing can be more detestable or mindless in general design, or more beautiful in execution "Ruskin), and the tomb of Canova. Canova died in 1822, and his tomb was erected in 1827 from designs which Canova himself had prepared for a tomb of Titian. The tomb, which has been much admired, does not escape the fine, hearty invective of Ruskin: "Consummate in science, intolerable in affectation, ridiculous in conception, null and void to the uttermost in invention and feeling."

Scuola di San Rocco

The chief treasure in the collection is Tintoretto's Crucifixion, perhaps the most majestic picture in all Venice, and certainly among the most moving and poignant treatments of Calvary in the whole realm of art. This painting, so overpowering in its effect, reduced even Ruskin to silence. " I must leave this picture to work its will on the spectator," is all he can say, "for it is beyond all analysis, and above all praise."

Mr Berenson writes as follows of this picture:

The scene is a vast one, and although Christ is on the Cross, life does not stop. To most of the people gathered there, what takes place is no more than a common execution. Many of them are attending to it as to a tedious duty. Others work away at some menial task more or less connected with the Crucifixion, as unconcerned as cobblers humming over their last. Most of the people in the huge canvas are represented, as no doubt they were in life, without much personal feeling about Christ. His own friends are painted with all their grief and despair, but the others are allowed to feel as they please. The painter does not try to give them the proper emotions. If one of the great modern novelists, if Tolstoy, for instance, were describing the Crucifixion, his account would read as if it were a description of Tintoretto's picture. But Tintoretto's fairness went even farther than letting all the spectators feel as they pleased about what he himself believed to be the greatest event that ever took place. Among this multitude he allowed the light of heaven to shine upon the wicked as well as upon the good, and the air to refresh them all equally. In other words, this enormous canvas is a great sea of air and light at the bottom of which the scene takes place. Without the atmosphere and the just distribution of light, it would look as lifeless and desolate, in spite of the crowd and animation, as if it were the bottom of a dried-up sea.

Tintoretto has chosen the moment when one of the crosses is just being hoisted into position. He forces you to feel the drag of the body pulling on the arms as the cross rises to a vertical position, and the downward thrust of the body-weight on to the cruel nails driven through the feet. The Crucifixion is such a familiar theme in art that one is apt to forget that few forms of death are more cruel and more agonizing. Tintoretto does not mean you to forget. I have seen a spectator completely overcome by the sense of physical pain conveyed by this tremendous painting.

The painting, if you can stand it, will repay the closest study, for it is inexhaustible in its interest. Mr Lucas quotes as an example of Tintoretto's "minute thought" a fact, first pointed out by another writer, that the donkey in the background is eating withered palm-leaves, a masterpiece of ironical comment.

This picture was painted in 1565 when Tintoretto was forty-seven years of age. He regarded it as his masterpiece, and his judgment has been confirmed by generation after generation of art-lovers.

The facade of the Scuola di San Rocco is the most representative work in Venice of the Early Renaissance. The Early Renaissance tracery of the lower windows reminds one of the Palazzo Corner-Spinelli (pp. 118-119 and of the Vendramin (p. 123). Curious features are the wreaths round the fluted pillars, one being of oak, another of laurel, and another of pine. The church of San Rocco adjoining the Scuola contains numerous Tintorettos.

SS. Giovanni e Paolo

The canals between the Molo and the great church dedicated to St John and St Paul are among the most fascinating in Venice, and for this reason the journey to the church should always be made by gondola.

The church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo is to the Dominicans what the Frari is to the Franciscans. It is a Gothic building, obviously inspired by the Frari, and was built during the thirteenth century. The doorway dates from 1430, and its transitional character is well seen in the Gothic pointed arch which springs from an entablature of classic form.

If you have not already done so, please read my summary of Ruskin's comments on the Frari tombs, much of which he applies with no less force to the tombs in SS. Giovanni e Paolo.

Both Giovanni and Gentile Bellini are buried in this church, as are also no fewer than forty-six Doges. Over the entrance in the interior is a monument to the Doge Alvise Mocenigo (1570-77) and his wife ; to the right the tomb of Doge Giovanni Mocenigo by the Lombardi, and to the left of the main entrance the mausoleum of Doge Pietro Mocenigo.

Of these tombs Ruskin writes:

The details are as full of exquisite fancy as they are perfect in execution ; and in the two former (Pietro and Giovanni Mocenigo), and several others of similar feeling, the old religious symbols return ; the Madonna is again seen enthroned under the canopy, and the sarcophagus is decorated with legends of the saints.

Beyond the first altar in the right aisle we find the monument to Bragadino, the Venetian commander who defended Cyprus against the Turks, and who, after the surrender of Cyprus, was flayed alive. His limbs were stuffed with straw and attached to the figurehead of the prow of the Turkish admiral's ship. For years this disgusting trophy was proudly exhibited in the arsenal at Constantinople, but it was either bought or stolen from Constantinople, and is now in the tomb which I have been describing.

Beyond the large chapel in the right aisle there is a vast baroque monument to the Doge Bertuccio Valier, a triumph of vulgarity.

In the choir are four magnificent tombs of the Doges. The Gothic monument to Marco Cornaro (1367) on the left meets with Ruskin's approval, though he criticizes the absence of religious imagery. Opposite this tomb, and about fifteen years later in date, is the tomb of the Doge Michele Morosini, the richest monument of the Gothic period in Venice. Ruskin praises the "most noble recumbent figure of the Doge, his face meagre and severe, and sharp in its lines, but exquisite in the form of its small and princely features," but condemns the boastful introduction of the Virtues. "The whole tomb," he writes,

is most notable, as furnishing not only the exact intermediate condition in style between the pure Gothic and its final Renaissance corruption, but, at the same time, the exactly intermediate condition of feeling between the pure calmness of Early Christianity, and the boastful pomp of the Renaissance faithlessness ; for here we have still the religious humility remaining in the mosaic of the canopy, which shows the Doge kneeling before the cross, while yet this tendency to self-trust is shown in the surrounding of the coffin by the Virtues.' The adjoining tomb of Leonardo Loredan, whose fine portrait by Bellini is in our own National Gallery, dates from 1501. The tomb of Andrea Vendramin (I476-78) is described by Baedeker as "the most harmonious monument in Venice." Ruskin, on the other hand, after grudgingly admitting "the delicacy and precision of its chiselling," damns it as perfect in workmanship, and devoid of thought. Its dragons are covered with marvellous scales, but have no terror nor sting in them; its birds are perfect in plumage, but have no song in them ; its children lovely of limb, but have no childishness in them.

In the left transept and on the right of the entrance to the Chapel of the Rosary, which was founded in 1571 to commemorate the great battle of Lepanto, and which was burnt out in 1867, but restored in 1912-28, is a statue to the great Doge Sebastiano Venier, who commanded the Venetian fleet at Lepanto.

Titian's great painting the St Peter Martyr was burnt in this chapel. The copy presented by King Victor Emmanuel hangs over an altar in the left aisle.

St Peter Martyr was a most vindictive Inquisitor who harried the poor people on the Lake of Como for many years, and was very properly assassinated for his pains.

The monument to Doge Tomaso Mocenigo (1413-23) in the left aisle is an excellent specimen of Venetian late Gothic.

The Colleoni Statue, the Scuola di San Marco, and the Santa Maria dei Miracoli

In the little campo beside the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo stands the most famous equestrian statue in the world, the statue of the great condottiere Bartolomeo, who served the Republic of St Mark's faithfully and well. He bequeathed his fortune to the Republic on condition that his statue should stand in the Piazza di San Marco. As this was wisely forbidden by the laws of Venice the Republic got out of the difficulty by placing the statue in the campo in front of the Scuola di San Marco, a casuistical solution which would certainly not have satisfied Colleoni.

The statue was designed by Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci's master, but Verrocchio, that great Florentine sculptor, died while the group of horse and rider was still in clay. He asked that the bronze cast should be made by Lorenzo di Credi, but his wishes were ignored and the task was entrusted to Leopardi.

Just as Verrocchio's David in the Bargello at Florence is often compared with Donatello's David, so it is equally natural to compare Verrocchio's Colleoni with Donatello's equestrian statue at Padua of the great General Gattamelata, under whom Colleoni served. These are, perhaps, the two finest bronze equestrian statues in the world, but most judges give the palm to Colleoni. " Colleoni," writes the Right Hon. W. Ormsby-Gore,

dominates not only his horse but all he surveys. Almost standing in his long stirrups, he seems the very embodiment of military pride. I always think Colleoni gains enormously in comparison with Gattamelata by reason of his helmet. Donatello's warrior is bareheaded. The lack of some head-piece to complete his armour is, in my opinion, an unfortunate omission. Verrocchio's horse is clearly more influenced by the antique than the 'truer' war-horse of Donatello.

Ruskin described Colleoni's statue as "the most glorious work in sculpture existing in the world." The Scuola di San Marco adjoins the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli is within a few minutes' walk of the Colleoni statue. Both are described by Ruskin as "the two most refined buildings in that style of the Early Renaissance which Lombardi initiated." The characteristics of this phase of the Renaissance have already been discussed in connexion with the Dario and Contarini delle Figure Palaces. The Scuola di San Marco, which was rebuilt in 1485 by Martino Lombardo, is described by Mr Stratton as " the most fantastic work of the Early Renaissance."

The facade of the Scuola di San Marco was obviously inspired by the facade of St Mark's. Note the odd attempt to represent the colonnade in perspective relief, a dreadful product of the newly awakened Renaissance interest in the scientific problems of perspective. There are two fine reliefs on this facade, a miracle by St Mark, and St Mark baptizing a convert, both by Tullio Lombardo.

Even Ruskin, for all his horror of the Renaissance, found it difficult to be angry with Santa Maria dei Miracoli, a fascinating little church tucked away on a side-canal. He grudgingly conceded that it was the most interesting and finished example in Venice of the Byzantine Renaissance, and one of the most important in Italy of the cinque-cento style. All its sculptures should be examined with great care, as the best possible examples of a bad style.

The exterior is not very satisfying, but the interior of the church is wholly charming. The walls are lined with coloured marble, and the pilasters and doorways are covered with delicate and beautiful carving.

The church is small and compact and unimpeded by interruptions. There are no columns and no side-aisles. The roof is barrel-vaulted. In the east end of the church a flight of steep steps leads to the sanctuary. The arabesque ornament on the frieze and capital of the arch between the nave and the sanctuary is considered by Mr Stratton to be among the best examples of the period. An hour can profitably be spent in this little church examining the carving of flowers, birds, and leaves, winged lions, and dolphins, the saint with the book on the left ambo, and the gloriously fierce eagle on the right ambo.

This exquisite gem of Renaissance architecture (1480-89) was designed by Pietro Lombardo. Tullio and Campagna helped with the internal decorations and sculpture.

We have already noted many great works of the talented Lombardi family in Venice. To the Lombardi we are indebted for some of the finest works of the Byzantine Renaissance, such as the Palaces of the Corner- Spinelli, the Contarini della Figure, the Vendramin, and the Scuola di San Marco. According to one authority the family originally came from Corona, on Lake Lugano, yet another instance of the debt which architecture owes to the Ceresian Lake, that great nursery of gifted stone-masons and architects.

Pietro Lombardo, who designed the Miracoli, also produced the fine statues of St Anthony and other saints in San Stefano and the Dante Memorial at Ravenna. Martino Lombardo was one of the architects employed in the Scuola di San Marco. The best sculptor in the family was Tullio, who executed the reliefs on the facade of the Scuola di San Marco and collaborated with Leopardi in the Vendramin tomb in the same church.

Palladio's Churches

Palladio did some of his best work in Venice, but his most representative buildings are to be seen at Vicenza, a beautifully situated little town which can easily be visited in a day from Venice. Palladio is interesting not so much for the merits of his work, which are mediocre, but for his effect on English architecture. European architecture in the sixteenth, and English architecture in the eighteenth, century were profoundly influenced by two very second-rate workers, Vitruvius and Palladio.

Vitruvius was an architect who lived in the reign of Augustus, and whose treatise on architecture was discovered at the beginning of the fifteenth century at Saint-Gall. Twelve editions of his book were published within the century.

Nature, O Emperor, wrote the Augustan critic, has denied me a full stature : my visage is lined with age : sickness has impaired my constitution. . . . Yet, though deprived of these native gifts, I trust to gain some praise through the precepts I shall deliver. I have not sought to heap up wealth through my art. . . . I have acquired but little reputation. Yet I still hope by this work to become known to posterity.

His hope was gratified.

Palladio, born at Vicenza in 1518, helped to edit Vitruvius, and published four books on architecture, which, like the treatise of Vitruvius, exercised a vast influence on the development of architecture.

Inigo Jones, who visited Italy at the end of the sixteenth century, fell under the influence of Palladio, but he was too great a man to be cramped and confined within the Palladian strait-waistcoat. Wren definitely broke loose from Palladianism, and was bitterly attacked in consequence. At the beginning of the eighteenth century Palladio was as securely enthroned in England as Vitruvius had been in the sixteenth century in Italy.

Palladio was lucky in his time. "Somebody was wanted," writes Sir Reginald Blomfield, to sum up the result of the last hundred years of work. The great effort of the Renaissance was over. The whirlwind of energy which had swept through every nook and cranny of the arts was nearly spent, the reaction was setting in, and of that reaction Palladio was the nice exponent. More neat and orderly in his methods than Serlio, more comprehensive than Vignola, with the touch of pedantry that suited the times and invested his writings with a fallacious air of scholarship, he was the very man to summarize and classify, and to save future generations of architects the labour of thinking for themselves. After the days of the intellectual giants came the schoolmaster to put everything in order. What to them had been facts and vital elements of expression were now to be docketed as abstractions. Architecture was to be put into a straitwaistcoat in order to keep it respectable and adjust it to the standard of the virtuoso. The result is rather depressing. The neatness and precision of the pedant are poor stuff after the clanging blows of heroes.

At Venice Palladio designed the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which has already been mentioned, and the Redentore. The latter church has been much praised. "There is scarcely a church in Italy," writes Mr William J. Anderson,

which, with so little expenditure of ornament and with such simple materials, has a richer and statelier effect internally than the Chiesa del Redentore. The clustering of the pillars under the dome and the columnar screen behind the altar are dignified in effect, and the whole interior has a remarkably religious expression, akin to that which might be produced by slow music of rich, full chords.

". . . the interior of the Redentore," writes Sir Reginald Blomfield,

is a most accomplished piece of severe design, and one has only to compare it with the nightmare cleverness of the interior of the Salute to realize the ability of Palladio as an architect.

Palladio's work leaves me cold in the proper sense of that word, and what little chance I may have had of appreciating the interior of the Redentore was ruined by the dreadful figures of saints cut out of solid slabs of cardboard.

Some Baroque Churches

Vitruvius laid it down that the breadth of the abacus must be equal to one diameter and one-eighteenth of a diameter of the lower part of the column. The face of the volute must exceed by one-thirty-ninth fraction the width of the abacus from behind the extreme projection. If it does not it is incorrect, and architecture that is incorrect is bad. And so on and so forth for page after page of rules to which brick and stone must conform at their peril.

Palladio rejoiced in the Vitruvian strait-waistcoat, but the Italians were far too brilliant and versatile a people to submit to this tyranny. "They very soon turned their back on their pedagogue," writes Sir Reginald Blomfield,

and indulged to their hearts' content in a wild orgy of exuberant and unlicensed architecture. The impudence of Borromini was the inevitable sequel to the dogmatism of Palladio, much as in England the Gothic revival was the result of the pedantry of Campbell and Kent.

Palladio believed that architecture should be correct. The great baroque architects cared nothing for correctness, for their object was, as Mr Geoffrey Scott puts it,

to communicate, through architecture, a sense of exultant vigour and overflowing strength. . . . To communicate this, the baroque architects conceived of Movement, tossing and returning; movement unrestrained, yet not destructive of that essential repose which comes from composition, nor exhaustive of that reserve of energy implied in masses, when, as here, they are truly and significantly massed. . . . Other architectures, by other names, have conveyed strength in repose. These styles may be yet grander, and of an interest more satisfying and profound. But the laughter of strength is expressed in one style only : the Italian baroque architecture of the seventeenth century.

Moreover, the great baroque masterpieces, the colonnade of St Peter's and the Salute at Venice, not only achieve the "immediate merit of the picturesque," but also produce "a permanent impression of a broad serenity; for they have that baroque assurance which even baroque convulsion cannot rob of its repose."

Ruskin hated the "grotesque Renaissance "-his characteristic term for the baroque-even more intensely than he hated Roman Renaissance.

Mr Scott may praise the baroque attempt to express in stone "the laughter of strength"; but Ruskin only finds in this "laughter of strength" "the spirit of brutal mockery and insolent jest . . . the perpetuation in stone of the ribaldries of drunkenness."

The Santa Maria Formosa, an excellent example of exuberant baroque, which lies on the direct line between the Piazza and the Rialto, evoked Ruskin's indignation. He notes that the church of Santa Maria Formosa was the first church in Venice which was entirely destitute of every religious symbol or inscription, and he dismisses the two churches of Santa Maria Zobenigo and San Moise as among the most remarkable in Venice for their manifestations of insolent atheism.

Ruskin forgot that the Jesuits were the first to realize the possibilities of baroque, and even Ruskin in his most Protestant mood would not have accused the Jesuits of "insolent atheism." It was indeed in the service of the counter-Reformation that the Jesuits built their baroque churches. It was to hold Catholic Europe against the heretic and to win back heretical Europe to the Roman obedience that the Jesuits exploited all the resources of that type of architecture which would appeal most easily to the theatrical instincts of mankind. The Jesuits, as Mr Geoffrey Scott has pointed out, fully appreciated the fact that the baroque movement merely exploited a taste which was already in existence.

The readiness of the seicento Italians to respond to an architectural appeal, their delight in such qualities as these baroque churches embodied, are pre-existent facts. The achievement of the Jesuits lay in converting these preferences of a still pagan humanity to Catholic uses, aggressively answering the ascetic remonstrance of the Reformation by a still further concession to mundane senses.

The basest example of baroque is the church of San Moise, to which reference has already been made; the noblest is the Salute; and the most characteristic is perhaps the Jesuit church of Santa Maria dei Gesuati.

This church, commonly known as I Gesuati, is situated very near the Fondamenta Nuove. The interior is lined with marble, basely but accurately imitating the effect of richly embroidered curtains. The effect is heightened by the verde antico with which the marble is inlaid. Santa Caterina, which contains Veronese's Marriage of St Catherine, is within a few minutes' walk. From the last-named church it is easy to proceed by the Rio di San Felice, Rio di Noale, and Rio della Sensa to the church of Madonna dell' Orto, which possesses a beautiful late Gothic facade (1460) and a famous picture by Cima da Conegliano.

The name ` I Gesuati' is also applied to another church built by the Jesuits, the Santa Maria del Rosario on the Fondamenta delle Zattere, which runs alongside the Giudecca Canal. Before visiting this church please read what has been said in Chapter IV on the subject of the ceiling paintings of Veronese and Tiepolo. And after you have admired Tiepolo's work in this church walk along the Fondamenta delle Zattere, turn up the Calle Balastro, and visit the church of San Sebastiano, which contains the tomb of Veronese, a fine collection of his paintings, and, in particular, a ceiling painting of the Coronation of Esthe.

There still remain a few more churches to be described before I can with clear conscience bring this long chapter to an end.

If you leave the Piazza di San Marco at the corner opposite St Mark's you enter the Frezzeria, a fashionable shopping centre, and soon reach the florid baroque church of San Moise, which Ruskin disliked so intensely. We follow the main traffic stream and cross, by the Bridge of Oysters, a stream at the end of which, looking to the right, we can see the Fenice, the great Venetian theatre. Still continuing along the main line, we cross two bridges and reach the spacious Campo Morosini, where San Stefano is situated. San Stefano is one of the few churches in Venice with cloisters. It dates from the fourteenth century, and contains some pleasant frescoes by Pordenone and a magnificent floor tomb to Francesco Morosini, who defended Candia against the Turks.

Now let us return to the Piazza di San Marco and start exploring the district east of the Piazza. We cross the Bridge of Sighs, pass Danieli's hotel, and take the first by-street beyond, which brings us to San Zaccaria (1458-83: transition Gothic). This church is famous for its possession of one of Giovanni Bellini's loveliest Madonnas, seen to its best advantage in the early morning light.

Of this painting John Addington Symonds wrote as follows: The whole painting is bathed in a soft but luminous haze of gold ; yet each figure has its individuality of treatment, the glowing fire of S. Peter contrasting with the pearly coolness of the drapery and flesh-tints of the Magdalen. No brush-work is perceptible. Surface and substance have been elaborated into one harmonious richness that defies analysis.

Retracing our steps to the Riva degli Schiavoni, as the fondamenta beside the harbour is called, we continue toward the Lido, cross two bridges, and then turn up the side-street which brings us to San Giovanni in Bragora, a very old church which contains a famous picture by Cima of the baptism of Christ.

Five minutes' walk from this church brings you to San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, which contains the famous Carpaccio paintings.

Another church in this district which is worth a visit is San Francesco della Vigna. The church itself is cold and unattractive, but it contains some interesting work by the Lombardi and a Madonna by Giovanni Bellini.

And now let us return once again to the Piazza di San Marco.

Seeing that it is far quicker to walk to the Rialto from the Piazza di San Marco than to take the steamer, the visitor who is in a hurry to get to the station and who is not burdened by luggage usually walks to the Rialto bridge and takes the steamer thence to the station.

If we follow the Merceria, the chief business street of Venice, which connects the Piazza, which it enters under the clock-tower, with the Rialto, we shall soon see the church of San Salvatore between the houses. The church was built in 1506-34 by Tullio Lombardo and Spavento. The baroque facade dates from 1663. The interior of the church contains "some of the best examples of Renaissance sculptural monuments in Venice" (Ruskin), and in particular an excellent statue representing Hope, by Sansovino. Titian's Annunciation was painted when Titian was over ninety, perhaps as old as ninety-five. Ruskin considers that the painting by Bellini "must have been entirely repainted. It is not only unworthy of the master but unlike him."

Leaving the Rialto bridge and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi on our left, we soon reach on our right the church of San Giovanni Crisostomo, which was built in the Early Renaissance style in 1497. It contains a fine painting by Sebastian Piombo, and a painting of St Jerome by Giovanni Bellini with a glorious mountain background. Of this painting Ruskin wrote: "A few years hence, unless it be `restored,' [it] will be esteemed one of the most precious pictures in Italy, and among the most perfect in the world." Time has justified Ruskin's tribute to the last signed work of the great master, a painting which was executed in 1513, when Bellini was in his eighty-fifth year.

Bookmark and Share