Venice day 5

Fondaco dei Turchi and the churches S. Marcuola, Santi Apostoli, S. Crisostomo and the chiesa di San Salvador

We walk along the busy route that runs from the station to the Rialto and the San Marco. On the main route towards the Rialto, a busy promenade, we first pass the St. Marcuola on the Canal Grande where you can take a boat. We first go to the little square in front of St. Marcuola, where we can see the opposite Fondaco dei Turchi. We talked about this building in class. The facade format (a wide central section that is finished on each side with a small part) of this fondaco was a model for all later palazzi.

S. Marcuola along the Canal Grande the opposite Fondaco dei Turchi and S. Marcuola big     Fondaco dei Turchi big
S. Marcuola facade along the Canal Grande Venice


S. Marcuola nave big size
S. Marcuola nave Venice


S. Marcuola inner and outer facade on the land side
S. Marcuola inner facade on the land side Venice

Photo: outer facade and campo: Wolfgang Moroder

An early work by Tintoretto can be found in the St. Marcuola. The bench shows the year in which it was painted: August 27, 1547. The commissioning party was Isepo Morandello from the brotherhood of the Sacrament of the San Marcuola. Tintoretto has not yet fully developed his own style in the Last Supper in the San Marcuola. The emphasis of this piece is placed on the announcement of the betrayal of Judas: the back figure in dark clothing with the hand on his back and the wallet with the thirty pieces of silver. The bread (body of Christ) is however brightly lit. Jacopo Robusti (Tintoretto) emphasises the Eucharist with this. The table is parallel to the image plane. Just like in the famous Last Supper by Leonardo in the Santa Maria della Grazie from 1498, the painting shows the moment Christ stated he will be betrayed. The grouping and the reactions of the apostles are based on Leonardo da Vinci.

S. Marcuola Tintoretto ‘Last Supper’ big size
S. Marcuola Tintoretto 'Last Supper' Venice

The work of Jacopo Tintoretto shows clear elements and trends in line with what the polygraphs wrote. Polygraphs were professional writers who wrote for the common people. Their plays or books were written for the lower class and were full of popular humour, derision and peppered with folksy expressions. These writers of the people had to produce quickly and often, since they lived off their sales. A clear dichotomy in the painting can be seen in the first Last Supper by Jacopo Robusti, Tintoretto’s real name. Christ just spoke the words that one of them will betray him. John and Peter look at the hands of Christ. It’s like, contrary to the other apostles, the meaning of his words haven’t hit them yet. The central part with Christ, John and Peter is calm, while on the left and right spontaneous and excited figures can be seen as apostles. Ruskin, a true defender of Tintoretto’s art, talked about his displeasure with this painting in the San Marcuola: it was ‘vulgar’ and ‘far below his level’. This type of criticism could have led to the addition of a classical background to the Last Supper around 1728. This addition was later removed during a restoration. We will see Tintoretto’s second Last Supper in the San Trovaso, in the chapel of the sacrament. This work is also strongly influenced by the polygraphs. Tintoretto would draw this design many more time, such as in the scuola Grande di San Rocco, which we visited earlier, but never again in the ‘traditional’ way. The day you go to the San Giorgio Maggiore, you can see a late work of Tintoretto with the same theme, the Last Supper, but very different from the painting from his youth in the S. Marcuola.

Tintoretto ‘Last Supper’ 1547,  157 x 443 cm, oil on canvas, S. Marcuola large size     Detail
Tintoretto 'Last Supper 1547 S. Marcuola Venice

Tintoretto ‘Last  Supper’ big size              Video Khan Academy ‘Last Supper’  (4.55 minutes)
Tintoretto 'Last Supper' 1547 San Giorgio Maggiore

According to a persistent legend, the pastor of this church dared to preach about ghosts. This pastor said that ghosts don’t exist, explaining that ‘where the dead are, that’s where they remain’. This poor man had to pay the price. On a certain night – of course after his sermon – he was dragged from his bed and beat up by all dead bodies from underneath the floor.

We continue our way on the busy walking route to the Rialto bridge and encounter the Santi Apostoli near a small campo.

Canaletto’s ‘Campo Santi Apostoli’ and the  current tower and back side of the Cornaro-chapel
Canaletto 'Campo Santi Apostoli'


Campo Santi Apostoli big size       Campo           Facade Santi Apostoli
Campo Santi Apostoli Venice


Campo Santi Apostoli large size 
Campo Santi Apostoli Venice
Santi Apostoli nave big size zoom in
Santi Apostoli nave Venice

The rich Cornaro family had a chapel built against the south side of this church. The suspected architect is Mauro Codussi. The outside, but especially the interior, shows that this chapel shows all characteristics of the Renaissance, with its square plan, the half spherical dome and the use of proper orders. The grave of Catharina Cornaro was located in the Santi Apostoli, hence the name saint, who portrays Tiepolo, Catharina was the queen of Cyprus. Her tomb is now in the San Salvatore, but the graves of her father Marco and her brother Giorgio remained in sitù.

Santi Apostoli Cornaro chapel and Tiepolo ”Last Communion of St. Lucy’
Santi Apostoli Cornaro chapel and Tiepolo ''Last Communion of St. Lucy'

Photos: Thom Ouellette

When going inside, we can see a painting by Tiepolo in the family chapel, ‘The Last Communion of St Lucy’, from 1748. in this painting with very bright colours, an important feature of the works of Tiepolo, our saint is kneeling to receive the communion. In front of her, a dish with her gouged out eyes. The bloody knife is on a cloth right next to the dish.

Tiepolo ‘Last Communion of St. Lucy’ and  Cornaro chapel Santi Apostoli
Tiepelo Last Communion of St. Lucy Cornaro chapel Santi Apostoli

According to the legend, Lucy was condemned to a brothel, since she only wanted to marry as a Christian, so not with a pagan groom. She was punished for this. But unfortunately, even strong oxen couldn’t get Lucy into the brothel. So it was decided to burn her at the stake, but this earthly means also couldn’t kill her. In desperation, the executioner grabbed a sword and pierced her neck and they succeeded, she died. Lucy is often depicted with her eyes gouged out as a punishment for her obstinate Christian attitude.

We are still walking along the busy road to the Rialto and walk through a narrow alley to get to the church San Giovanni Crisostomo.

San Giovanni Crisostomo large size       Entrance
San Giovanni Crisostomo facade and side Venice


Entrance Santuario
San Giovanni Crisostomo Entrance Santuario Venice

This church is typical of the Renaissance. The plan has the shape of a Greek cross with an inscribed circle, so a dome. The architect is Mauro Codussi, and the church was built between 1479 and 1504. We will look at two paintings and a relief in this church.

San Giovanni Crisostomo interior large size
San Giovanni Crisostomo interior Venice

Photograph: gowersaint

After entering, you can see a painting by Giovanni Bellini on the right, behind the side altar. Bellini’s altarpiece was painted for Giorgio Dilette and he determined which saints were displayed on it. The late word is signed and dated in 1513, three years before the death of the commissioner in 1516. After depositing some coins in the tithing box, we will discuss this work. It is based on Psalm 13, 2 and can be read on the back side of the frame:

Plaintive psalm
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.


Giovanni Bellini ‘Saints’ 1513      The chapel 
GGiovanni Bellini'St. Jerome St. Christopher and St. Louis of Toulouse' Chapel in the  San Giovanni Crisostomo 

Giovanni Bellini ‘Saints Christopher, Jerome and Ludwig of Toulouse’ 1513, 300 x 185cm

See Wikipedia

Lines from Psalm 14 can be read from the arch in Greek, which translated are as follows:

The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God

In this work, just like in the one by Sebastiono del Piombo (on the main altar), three saints are depicted, with a church father in the middle. The puzzle was partially solved twenty years before his death, but not completely. St. Louis has the main piece of the other church father Augustine in his hands, with the title Civitate Dei. Is this man Augustine? No, because the inscription, Civitate Dei, stems from later times. Also, the title on the back of the book is not completely clear. This is something the very accurate Bellini would never do, so he did portray St. Louis.

Under this arch (a symbol of the church) the two saints of the active lives are found, while St. Jerome is reading and meditating on a high rock. The text from Psalm 14 on the arch is written in Greek. The choice of this language can partially be explained by the fact that this is a church for the Greek. The Psalms are written in Hebrew (O.T.). Lattanzi interpreted this altarpiece in 1981 as follows:

Jerome, a hermit and educated church father, represents the highest point of religiosity. There seems to be no connection between the rock and the space in front of the railing where the other two saints are standing, as it were on the same level as the viewer. The three saints represent three different features: Christopher for humility and modesty, and Toulouse for docility, the church and liturgy. Jerome stands for contemplative life, the other two for active life. At the end of his life, Jerome was involved with the relationship between the contemplative and the active life, which is actually a very classic debate.

The active life is placed on our level, the earthly level, and the contemplative life stands above and outside our society. The examples Toulouse and Christopher portray can be followed and strived for by everyone, but only few can do what Jerome did. But both the active and the contemplative life play a major role in the liberation. You had to be satisfied with your role, so almost always the active life. Especially in those years, a fierce debate took place about the relation between the contemplative and active life. This piece takes a clear position in this debate: the contemplative ranks higher, but both belong to each other and both lead to salvation. Don’t forget that Bellini was involved with the scholars of his time and must have experienced this debate himself.

The active versus contemplative debate played a major role in Venice. Two patricians, Vicenzo Querini and Tomaso Giustinian left the city in the lagoon and retired as hermits. They still wrote their friends in Venice, including the future cardinal Gasparo Contarini. The two ‘refugees’ Vicenzo and Querini chose the superior contemplative life. Gasparo Contarini saw this completely different. He called on the two to follow the active life, the world in which we live needed this. We just assume that Diletti identified with St. Christopher and that Ludovico Talenti, the priest of this church, identified with the spiritual and namesake Ludovico, or Louis of Toulouse.

There is another altarpiece next to Bellini’s altarpiece, located behind the main altar, by painter Sabastiano del Piombo.

Main altar altaar large size       Main altar large size
San Giovanni Crisostomo nave Venice

Photographs: Daniel.Bisson

Sebastiano del Piombo ‘Saint Chrysostome and Saints’ large size
Sebastiano del Piombo 'St. Chrysostom with St. John the Evangelist, John the Baptist St. Theodore and St. Catharine, St. Mary Magdalen and St. Lucy' oil on canvas, 200 x 165 cm altarpiece San Giovanni Crisostomo

This painter painted this work shortly before his departure to Rome, where he became a celebrated artist of the portrait. St. Chrysostom is portrayed in the centre. He is one of the four Oriental church fathers the church is named after. This altarpiece is considered a masterpiece by Piombo. The subject is strongly influenced by religious doctrine. Like Bellini’s altarpiece that was painted later in this church, it is clear theological statement, and definitely not just private, but mainly a public ‘statement’ in paint. We will see how beautifully Piombo managed to process the assignment for this painting in a natural way.

Sebastiano del Piombo ‘Saint Chrysostome and Saints’  large size
SSebastiano del PiomboSt. Chrysostom with St. John the Evangelist, John the BaptistSt. Theodore and St. Catharine, St. Mary Magdalen and St. Lucy altarpiece

Sebastiano del Piombo ‘St. Chrysostom with St. John the Evangelist, John the Baptist St. Theodore and St. Catharine, St. Mary Magdalen and St. Lucy’ oil on canvas, 200 x 165 cm altarpiece

Tullio Lombardo

Another marble relief can be found on the far left on the west side, called ‘Coronation of the Virgin’, by Tullio Lombardo from 1500 in the Barnabo chapel. The clothing of the spectators at the coronation are clearly not from Lombardo’s time, but all’antica, Roman robes. Lombardo applies relieve schiacciato, or low relief at the top op the large altarpiece, which is an invention by Donatello. This technique is very difficult, even for very skilled sculptors. Lombordo convincingly shows this in the marble altarpiece.

Tullio Lombardo ‘Cornation of the Virgin’      Bernabo Chapel
Tullio Lombardo 'Cornation of the Virgin' Bernabo Chapel Venice


Tullio Lombardo ‘Cornation of the Virgin’  big size
Tullio Lombardo 'Cornation of the Virgin' San Giovanni Crisostomo

This church is also special because of its architecture. Mauro Codussi is the architect, who lived during the Renaissance. It is extremely difficult to distinguish the individual contribution of the different sculptors from Lombardy and Bergamo in the 15th century by the buildings in La Serenissima. They worked as groups in large workshops. They started the new style, the Renaissance. They used the all’antica parts as pure decorations, often naïvely. This is comparable to the use of single words without a grammatical structure. Not until the 19th century, Paoletti studied all sources and discovered the architect Mauro Codussi. Codussi was born around 1440 in Bergamo and died in Venice in 1504. Mauro was already completely forgotten by 1581. Contrary to the rest of Italy, the anonymity of artists during the Renaissance persisted for a long time in Venice.

It is now established that Codussi built churches like the San Michele in Isola, the Santa Maria Formosa, the San Giovanni Crisostomo, the slim Campanile at San Pietro di Castello, the steps at the Scuola San Marco and the San Giovanni Evangelista. The achievements of Codussi are very remarkable, knowing that he has seen few really large classic building. He’s never been to Rome. Codussi however created the most serene classic buildings of the Renaissance. Codussi’s architecture doesn’t just consist of using classical details or elements, but he perfectly applies the classic principles of architecture you were taught in class. On the spot I will elaborate again on the Vitruvian notion of ‘symmetria’, the core of classical architecture. Symmetria doesn’t mean the usual symmetry in this case, but balanced proportions, or in the words of Vitruvius, around 50 years before Christ:

‘Thus symmetry is a harmonious consensus of the parts of a work and specifically a rational proportion of the parts to each other and always to the whole figure. Just as the quality of eurhythmics in the human body results from forearm, foot, hand, finger and the other symmetrical component parts, it emerges in perfected works of art.’

From: Vitruvius, Handboek Bouwkunde, Book I Athenaeum-Polak&Van Gennep, Amsterdam, 1997

Codussi makes minimal use of various classical elements, such as capitals and frames. Decoration does not have top priority, as usual in La Serenissima (Palazzo Dario and Ca’d’Oro), but simplicity and fine proportions do.

We walk towards the Rialto. The San Salvatore is located a bit further than the market, to the east of it.

San Salvador

The San Salvador was built in 1507 by local architect Giorgio Spavento, and completed in 1534. Tullio Lombardo took over after Spavento’s death in 1509.

San Salvador       Facade big size      Cannonball 1849 in the facade
San Salvador facade Venice

After Tullio died in 1532, Sansovino completed the San Salvatore. This church is considered one of the most successful and beautiful churches in Venice. Spavento started with a central-plan building and a large central dome with four small domes in the corners. The central-plan building and the Greek cross were reintroduced by Codussi at the end of the 15th century. (click here for a map of the San Salvatore in the urban context) Spavento, who of course had to deal with his commissioners, was not allowed to make a full central-plan building. This shape is quite awkward. By repeating the Greek cross twice more, a long nave is created. A basilica that also has the strong features of a Greek cross. A perfectly successful synthesis of two construction types which seem to be mutually exclusive: a basilica and a central-plan building. Three round apses were placed on the east side as enclosure. This is a tradition in Byzantine architecture. By lengthening the side arms, the Greek cross also gets a transept. The architect was forced by the monks to do this. Click here for a map of the San Salvador.

San Salvador nave big size
San Salvador nave Venice

The simple interior with white stucco and grey-blue stone for the supporting parts had a large influence on Palladio and Longhena. The three consecutive domes with lanterns in combination with the smaller domes provide an immense amount of light. (click here for a drawing of a cross-section of the San Salvatore). The lanterns were added in 1574. Under the influence of the Counter-Reformation, more windows were built in many churches in the late 16th and early 17th century: more light was required to make the artworks, paintings and sculptures clearly visible to the public.

The church is not only worth visiting because of its architecture from the Renaissance, but also to admire the works of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio). These are two altarpieces: one of them adorns the high altar, and represents the Transfiguration, and the other piece is placed above an altar by Sansovino, and depicts the Annunciation. Titian uses his technique in the Annunciation (see map: 4), painted between 1560-65, to shape a literary text in paint. The following words from Genesis are painted on the marble frame: ‘IGNIS ARDENS ET NON COMBURENS’ or burning with fire, but not being consumed by it. It represents Mary having a child, but that the ‘fire’ did not affect her hymen.

Titian ‘Annunciation’          Large size
San Salvador Titian 'Annunciation' Venice

Photograph: Wolfgang Moroder

The crystal vase with flowers exactly placed above the frame with the inscription, stands in stark contrast with the way the flowers are painted. It doesn’t display the usual traditional lilies. Titian painted a firm plant with heavy petals that looks suspiciously like the flames of fire. The suggestive spots, macchia, make it look like it’s actually on fire. Titian uses his painting techniques here to shape theological metaphors. Next to Titian, his brother Francesco also worked on several assignments in the church, such as the tomb, the high altar, the doors of the organ and the frescos at the side entrance.

Two sculptures of Alessandro Vittoria can be seen in this church, which are St. Sebastian and St. Roch. We’ve already seen works of this sculptor in the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.

Alessandro Vittoria ‘St. Sebastian’
Alessandro Vittoria 'St. Sebastian' San Salvador Venice

Click here for a map of the San Salvador with sights

1.  Sculpture of Christ by Giulio Moro.
2.  Monument for Doge Francesco Venier of Sansovino and Vittoria, around 1556.
3.  Monument for Caterina Cornaro of Bernardino Contino, 1580-1584.
4.  Titian, Annunciation,  1566.
5.  Titian, Transfiguration, 1560-1570.
6.  Follower of Giovanni Bellini (Vittore Carpaccio?), Road to Emmaus.
7.  Monument for the cardinals Marco Francesco and Andrea Cornaro of B. Contino, 1570
8a Sculptures of St. Roch by Alessandro Vittoria, around 1600.
8b Sculptures of  St. Sebastian by Alessandro Vittoria, around 1600.
9.  Monument for the Doges Girolamo and Lorenzo Priuli, designed by Cesare Franco, around. 1578


Nave with view of main altar large size
San Salvador Nave with view of main altar Venice

Photo: Legarius

Main altar with Transfiguration of  Titian large size
Main altar with Transfiguration of  Titian Venice


Titian ‘Transfiguration’ large size
Titian 'Transfiguration' main altar San Salvador Venice

Hidden behind Titian’s Transfiguration is a true treasure from the fourteenth century. Unfortunately, this gilded altarpiece, the Pala d’Argento, can only be seen on certain religious days.

Monument for Doge Francesco Venier Sansovino and Vittoria about 1556


Cesare Franc ‘Monument for the Doges Girolamo and  Lorenzo Priulio’ about 1578
Cesare Franc 'Monument for the Doges Girolamo and  Lorenzo Priulio' about 1578 San Salvador Venice

Click here for continuation day 5