San Giorgio dei Greci, Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni or Scuola Dalmata, San Zaccaria and the S. Giovanni in Bragora
|San Giorgio dei Greci|
Our route will bring us to another Greek church: the S. Greci, which we will visit first. This 16th century church, the San Giorgio dei Greci, is situated at the Rio dei Greci and is the main seat of the Greek brotherhood. Venice was home to many peoples: Greeks, Byzantines, Dalmatians, Arabs, Jews, etc. These communities often had their own churches and scuola. Before we enter this well-hidden church, you can still try to make out the slanted campanile. The interior offers a tremendous view in how the orthodox religion kept men and women strictly separated from each other during service. The priest performs his rituals from behind the iconostasis. The iconostasis is a wall that separates the priests from the people and often boasts beautifully designed icons, and this one is no different. There is a small museum next to this church that shows many icons.
|San Giorgio dei Greci exterior big size
facade San Giorgio dei Greci big size
Photo: Dmitry Shakhinis
|San Giorgio dei Greci iconostasis
|San Giorgio dei Greci big size|
|Scuola Dalmata and Rio della Pietà big size|
|The Virgin Mary with Saints around 1350 above and Pietro di Salò Joris killing the Dragon 1552 zoom in
|Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni
interior view from the entrance
Photo: Thom Ouellette
|Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni interior big size
|Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni big size
The scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, also known as the scuola Dalmata, is a small scuola that served as a meeting place for Dalmatian traders. Between 1502 and 1508, Vittore Carpaccio made a famous cycle of nine paintings for this building. The Web Gallery of Art has some very good images available of that entire cycle and by Thais.it. This is his only cycle of the five paintings still preserved that are still in their original location. The story begins on the left wall with St. George and continues on the right wall via the back wall. The stories and saints depicted here are mostly the patron saints of Dalmatia, namely St. George, St Triphon and St.Jerome. Carpaccio paints the stories of these saints with his usual touch of humour. His portrayals are so accurate that it takes little knowledge to read and understand the story. Originally, the cycle of paintings was located on the first floor, but during the restoration of 1551 the paintings were relocated to the ground floor. Two paintings are not part of the cycle, namely ‘The Call of Matthew’ and “Christ in the garden of Getshema’, leaving the original cycle as a series of 7 paintings.
|San Giorgio dei Greci big size left wall right wall
|San Giorgio dei Greci
interior right wall left wall
|Joseph Lindon Smith Scuola Dalmata|
The stories are from the Legenda Aurea (1298; an English translation can be read here) as written by bishop Jacobus de Voragine from Genua. The painter does deviate from de Voragine’s tales. The story of the dragon is depicted in two paintings and the third one on the left wall has St. George baptising the heathen king and queen. In the first painting, George impales the dragon with his lance. In the second painting, he lands the killing blow on the dragon under the watchful eyes of spectators and the king and queen, the parents of ‘our’ princess. A drawing about this has also been preserved (Uffizi).
|St. George and the Dragon big size|
Circled around the dragon are the remains of his macabre hoard: slain bodies, bones and skulls; half-eaten by lizards, snakes and toads. The background shows the city where St. George will drag the wounded dragon to. Between all the bones and skulls are the bodies of a young man and woman. Both fell victim to their lust. They were to stay virgin until their marriage. Like the toad, the dragon is the symbol of lust.
According to the Leganda Aurea, the princess is a heathen African woman. Yet here she is depicted like a Venetian lady from Carpaccio’s time. She is wearing pearls around her neck. Her posture looks like a Virgin Mary: with folded hands as if locked in prayer while listening. Her expression shows no fear, even though she is faced with a rather ominous scene. Her crown is typical for virgins and martyrs. Behind her we see a green hill with two winding roads leading up: one to the church and the other one to a steep rock across a scary looking bridge with two huts. The paths of life are difficult and winding, but the right one eventually leads to salvation. Two ships: one at full sail and the other one floating aimlessly at sea. These symbols are often used in a Christian context.
Although this artwork is heavy with symbolism, the cycle continues with the painting ‘killing the dragon’ which shows no deeper meaning whatsoever.
The triumph of St. George (George slays the dragon)
The dragon is dragged along with the belt the princess wore around her waist as a sign of virginity. All the townsfolk watch as George lands the finishing blow. A diagonal of the back of the lance that continues up to the end of the dragon’s tale amplifies the effect of the deadly thrust. One’s gaze automatically follows along this line. Some horses, and even some spectators, are not entirely at ease and fear the dragon.
|The triumph of St. George big size
The preliminary sketch Uffizi
This artwork uses a clear perspective and is easy to read. Like in the Legenda Aurea, George uses the princess’ chastity belt to drag the dragon along. The ‘orchestra’ accompanies this cheerful event where the city of Selene is finally liberated from the dragon’s terror. The red belt as a sign of virginity, which the princess undoubtedly gifted to George, points to engagement and marriage. But alas, our brave Christian knight ventures on after first baptising the townsfolk of Selene. The adjacent painting shows the baptism of the king and queen by George. It contains Eastern elements even though the setting is definitely Venetian. In the centre of the Triumph of St. George, the architecture is very similar to the Solomon temple as it was known from engravings in the book of Reeuwich back then.
The first two paintings were likely paid for by Paolo Valaresso, who also gave a relic of St. George to this scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavonni. He in turn had received this relic from the patriarch of Jerusalem. Paola Valaresso was a captain of the Venetian fortress in Morea at the Peloponnesos. Valaresso was coerced by Venice to refrain from fighting the Turks. He had no choice but to resentfully surrender his city to the Ottomans. Valaresso was also a Dalmatian. St. George is a knight who fights for God like the crusaders did. The dragon as a symbol for the Turks has been often used. For instance, the Ottoman flag depicts a dragon. Canons used by the Turks were always referred to as fire-spitting dragons. Valaresso played a role in the first two paintings as the commissioning party. The theme of the paintings can also be interpreted as the dragon, the Turkish, being killed by the Christian knight.
|altar wall big size|
Two episodes from the life of St. Jerome are depicted in the scuola di San Giorgione degli Schiavonni. This story is also from the ‘Legenda Aurea’, but also from a more contemporary source. The story is titled: ‘Life, Death and Miracles of Saint Jerome from 1471 by Pietro de Natali. The cripple lion follows our Saint near a monastery in Bethlehem. Only the abbot, Jerome, greets the lion. He doesn’t seem to understand why others flee from the animal. The lion’s head is wrought with pain, as he has a thorn in his front paw. Our saint cares for the lion and removes the thorn. The lion was eternally grateful and never left Jerome’ side.
|St. Jerome the lion and his brothers big size
detail: St. Jerome
We can see the amazement and disappointment in Jeromes’ face when he sees his brothers running away instead of doing their Christian duty. The monks refuse to help the wounded lion while he is a creation of God. The lion doesn’t just come to live in the monastery but is also taught to behave according to Christian norms. The monastery is clearly situated in the Middle-East, given the men with turbans and palm trees. Why are these heathen turbans in this scene? They are walking towards the church, presumably to be converted. No longer are they hostile monsters and persecutors of Christianity, but they come to repent.
The victory on 2 August 1502 – the year when Vittore completed several paintings for this scuola like the two about Hieronymus- marked the end (for some time) of the war between the Turks and the Christian west. The paintings about St. George on the opposite wall also involved this theme.
|The funerale of St. Jerome big size|
The building in the background of ‘the death of St. Jerome’ looks like the monastery of the hospital workers in Venice, while the old scuola, prior to the 1551 restoration, is also visible at the left of the image with the excellent bay and round windows. The lion also makes an appearance at the funeral, though not a prominent one. Like in the Legenda Aurea, the lion seems to throw its head back in a mournful roar.
The painting ‘St. Augustine in his Study’ is probably Carpaccio’s most famous artwork. One often asked question about this painting is: why was this theme included in the cycle?
|Carpaccio ‘St. Augustine in his study’ ca. 1502. 141 x 210 cm. preliminary sketch British Museum London big size
St. Augustine in his Study Scuola Dalmata
What does Augustine have to do with the rest of the story? There is one interesting thesis floating around: the subject. Augustine does indeed have something in common with the two other paintings about St. Hiëronymus. In Augustine’s work, ‘The Life, Death and Miracles of Augustine’, we read the story that Augustine wanted to write a treatise about the joy of blessed souls. Augustine wanted Hiëronymus to share his opinion about it. As Augustine writes a letter to Hiëronymus asking him for his opinion, Hiëronymus passes away. While he is writing, Augustine, as the story goes, is suddenly confronted by a heavenly, unnatural light. Along with the light sounded the voice of Hiëronymus, as if he held a shell to his ear. With a preaching tone, Augustine was told not to have the arrogance to attempt to describe the joy of blessed souls. Only those who had reached eternity could understand such.
The Dalmatian dog appears to hear the voice and see the supernatural light. But the relation is a very unusual one, and very abstract for the spectator who knows little about theology. What’s more, Augustine has little involvement with the Dalmatians. In addition, this painting as opposed to all other paintings of this cycle has no exterior but strictly an interior with one person. The answer could be that whoever commissioned the cycle wanted a portrait made of himself and that’s why St. Augustine was chosen as a portrait. We will have a look at the actual painting and discuss why it is so typical for the Venetian style.
|St. Augustine in his study in the Scuola Dalmata|
There is very little known about Carpaccio, just as with Giovanni Bellini. Unfortunately, Venice never had a writer like Vasari who kept track of all the gossip and facts of great artists. He reputedly worked in Venice between 1499 and 1523. Just like Bellini, Carpaccio also strongly adjusted the Renaissance, which started late in Venice.
|to the first floor
a special holy water bowl
|Scuola Dalmata big size zoom in the other side
|San Zaccaria big size
lower part of the facade
At a quiet square near the Riva degli Schavioni we find the San Zaccaria, a church that is connected to a Benedictine monastery. The church bears the name of Saint Zacharias, whose relics are still kept in the church to this day. Zacharias was the father of John the Baptist. The church, founded in the 9th century by Doge Giustiniano Particiaco, was renovated multiple times throughout the centuries. The oldest parts of the building are the 10th century crypt and the 12th century floor mosaics that still contain 9th century fragments. The church was reconstructed during the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The facade is an important monument because you can tell there’s a transition between gothic and renaissance architecture.
|San Zaccaria nave big size|
Photo: Pedro Albuquerque
The layout of the church (click here for the layout of the San Zaccaria) was performed according to the gothic model, influenced by the style that was predominantly used for cathedral construction in Northern Europe. Typical elements include the high central nave and the elongated windows that add considerable light to the choir chapels.
|San Zaccaria aisle|
The walls are covered with 17th and 18th century paintings. Many art treasures decorate the church, belonging to famous Venetians like the Madonna with the saints by Giovanni Bellini (the Web Gallery of Art shows the altarpiece and some details) and the flight to Egypt by Giambattista Tiepolo, a predella by Paolo Veneziano, but also by Tuscan artist Andrea del Castagno who painted a fresco in the Cappella San Tarasio and a crucifix by Antonie van Dijck.
|Francesco Guardi ‘The procession of the Doge to the San Zaccaria’ 1777-1780 big size|
|Francesco Guardi ‘The Parlor of the Nuns at San Zaccaria’ big size google art project|
|Giovanni Bellini ‘Pala di San Zaccaria’ 502 x 236 cm, paneel 1505
Youtube Khan Academy (5.31 minuten) Sacre conversatione Perspective
The adjacent monastery was infamous for its unruly behaviour of the nuns who mostly came from rich Venetian families. The baroque painter Francesco Guardi once painted a visit to the ‘nuns’ of this monastery. The Doge and his entourage gathered at the San Zaccaria every year during Easter to express their gratitude to the monastery community for their making available of a part of their orchard to expand the Piazza San Marco. Eight doves are buried in this church.
This gothic church from 1475 is built on old foundations. While the renaissance was already happening in Florence, Venice stuck to Gothicism for quite a while longer and not just when it came to architecture.
|Campo Bandiera e Moro big size|
|Campo Bandiera e Moro big format|
|San Giovanni in Bragora facade|
Photo’s: Veneza !! and dvdbramhall
|San Giovanni in Bragora big size
aisle and altarpiece choir
|San Giovanni in Bragora Cima da Conegliano ‘The baptism of Christ’ zoom in
This church has a number of paintings that perfectly illustrate the transition from Gothicism to early Renaissance. The chapel to the right of the main altar shows a triptych by the Vivarini’s. This Vivarini is Bartolomeo, who painted a Mary between St. Andreas and John the Baptist (click here for the official church website). This altarpiece is still clearly part of Gothicism.
|San Giovanni in Bragora and Bartolomeo Vivarini big size|
|Bartolomeo Vivarini ‘Mary with child and the Saints John the Baptist and Andreas’ big size|
Bartolomeo’s cousin, Alvise, painted a ‘Resurrection’ twenty years later in 1498. The Christ figure painted by Alvise Vivarini looks like he descended straight from Mount Olympus. This figure was likely based on a classic image of Apollo.
|Bartolomeo Vivarini John the Baptist 1478
|Alvise Vivarini ‘Resurrection of Christ’ 1497-1498
This is how the renaissance entered this gothic church. The other side of the choir above the main altar is the location of the church’s pride and joy, an altarpiece titled: ‘Baptism of Christ’ from 1498 by Cima da Conegliano.
|Cima da Conegliano ‘The baptism of Christ’ 1498 big size
the geometric composition
Photo: Didier Descouens
The compositional scheme of this painting meets all renaissance requirements. If you take a close look, you will notice how geometry played a large role in painting as well. Conegliano also produced a painting in this church with Constantine, Helena and the cross of Christ. The said painting also has a clear geometric composition. The Renaissance saw a revival of writing about art after a 1000 year hiatus. Alberti was the first to write his ‘De Pictura’ in 1435.
|altar with Pietà|
Photos: Thom Ouellette and the Pietà sailko
Finally, to the right and close to the entrance, we have a chapel with a statue, a Pietà. The statue’s theme, Mary with her dead son Jesus on her lap is originally a theme from Northern Germany. It was called an Andachtsbild. The purpose of these statues, and this church does a good job of reflecting that, is for the parishioner to kneel down in prayer on the steps near the statue. One would then communicate directly with Mary through this statue.