Churches like San Trovaso, Gesuati, San Stefano, Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Ca’Loredan and Ca’Farsetti

We walk along the Fondamenta Zattere towards the S. Trovas and see the Rio San Trovaso where the church by the same name is situated.

Fondamenta Zattere and a view from the Fondamenta Giudecca large size
Fondamenta Zattere Rio San Trovaso Venice


Rio San Trovaso  and the Rio del Ognissanti big size         The gondola wharf and the San Trovaso
Rio San Trovaso Rio del Ognissanti Venice

Photo: Magda Banach

San Trovaso Rio Trovaso big size
San Trovaso Rio Trovaso Venice

This is one of the few wharfs that still produce gondolas. Crafting a gondola is very time consuming. It takes a few months, using eight (!) different wood types.

This church has two facades because the church used to border two groups: the Castellani and the Nicoletti. These citizen groups were in a conflict that lasted until the 19th century. Of course, the rivalling parties never wanted to enter the church through the same door. So the solution was to create two facades and thus two doors. The southern door was to be used by the Castellani, the western one by the Nicoletti.

The church has two paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto, but also artworks of his son. It also has a prime example of international style with a painting by Giambono ‘St. Chrysogonus on Horseback’.

Jacopo Tintoretto ‘Last Supper’ Chapel of the sacrament c. 1563 large size     Detail
Jacopo Tintoretto 'Last Supper' c. 1563 Chapel of the sacrament San Trovaso Venice

In this Last Supper, just as in the San Marcuola, Tintoretto is still heavily influenced by the poligrafi. Just to reiterate, these were writers who wrote for the common folk, with working class humor, mockery and laden with folk expressions. Comedy writer Andrea Calmo, a poligrafi, wrote an eulogy for Tintoretto. Calmo praises some facets of Robusti’s work, including the speed of painting, the so-called prestezza. He admired Tintoretto’s ability ‘to portray a figure from nature in half an hour.’

‘[…] but you twiddling with your paintbrush and a small crumb of white lead and egg white portay a figure from nature in half an hour, and goodness knows how many cobblers, tailors and builders one might find in twenty years who could scarcely even learn to handle the colours.’

Cited from: Tom Nichols, ‘Tintoretto Tradition and Identity,’ Reaktion Books, London, 1999 p.77

The back figure grabbing a wine jug is an introductory figure in the story. The lower class figures contrast sharply the quiet and idealised Christ figure similar to the Last Supper by Tintoretto in the San Marcuola. According to ‘serious’ critics, such folkish yokels were an insult. For instance, painters Félibien and Poussin claimed Tintoretto failed to add dignity to his subject. Classicist Lanzi wrote in 1792 that the apostles of Tintoretto could just as easily be mistken for gondoliers.

Michele Giambono

International gothicism is a style that arose at the 14th century French courts and spread all over Europe. Generally, this style is easily recognised by it’s nice looking decorative lines. In this painting, dating to the early 15th century, the gown and flag of the knight wave around gracefully.

Michele Giambono‘St. Chrysogonos on horseback’ c. 1450 big size
Michele Giambono‘St. Chrysogonos on horseback’ c. 1450 San Trovaso Venice

The Renaissance arrived late to Venice; Gothicism and especially Byzantine art prevailed for quite some time. One good example of early-Renaissance can be found in this church, namely in a small chapel where some of the panels were removed to accommodate an altar, likely from 1470.


We continue west. The Zattere al Gesuati has a church that goes by the same name.

Zattere ai Gesuati big size
Zattere ai Gesuati Venice
Gesuati and view from the Canal  Giudecca large size           Gesuatie and the  boat stop Zattere
Gesuati kerk Venice
Gesuati facade big size            View from the top
Gesuati facade Venice

Photo: Davide De  Martin

This church was founded by the Jesuits, but is now in hands of Dominicans, and Tiepolo once worked here. He completed a large ceiling piece, but also a painting. We will have a closer look at his art.

Gesuati interior big size
Gesuati interior Venice

The ceiling piece consists of three large panels. The subject deals with the founder of the Order of Dominicans. After taking over the church from the Jesuits, the Dominicans commissioned Tiepolo to add ceiling frescos. Framed inside stuccowork there are three large panels on the ceiling, Apotheosis of St. Dominic, Institution of Rosary and finally St. Dominic blesses a Dominican monk. The middle panel ranks as a very good artwork by the painter. We will discuss at the location why Tiepolo must have been strongly influenced by the fresco of Paolo Veronese that we just saw at the S. Sebastiano.

Ceiling ‘The Glory of St. Dominic’ big size     Tiepolo ‘Institution of the Rosary’ big size
Gesuati Ceiling Tiepolo 'The Glory of St. Dominic' Venice
Tiepolo ‘Madonna with three Dominican female saints’ zoom in
Tiepolo 'Madonna with three Dominican female saints' Gesuati chapel

Photo: Jill Clardy

‘A oil painting on canvas by G.B. Tiepolo is above the first altar on the right. Although the canvas had been prepared by December 1739, the finished painting [big size] was not installed in the church until 1748. It shows three female Dominican saints: St Catherine of Siena standing on the left, holding a cross with the crucified Christ. St Rose of Lima, standing on the right, holding the Christ child, who is holding a rose. St Agnes of Montepulciano (who had only been canonised in 1726), seated and holding a small cross. Seated behind and above the three saints is the Madonna, seeming detached from and unnoticed by them

Source: Wikipedia

To the right of the aisle is another work by Tiepolo. Mary is sitting on a throne that is carried by a golden cloud. Below her, one sees three holy women of the Dominican order, namely St. Catherina, St. Rosa and Agnes of Montepulciano.

We head north and we cross the Canal Grande at the Accademia towards the Santo Stefano.

Accademia bridge big size      Crossing the bridge
Accademia bridge Canal Grande

Photo: Christian Wilt

Santo Stefano

Campo Santo Stefano big size
Campo Santo Stefano Venice

Photo: L F Ramos-Reyes

At the edge of Campo Santo Stefano, one of the most cosy squares in Venice, we find the church by the same name. Art by famous Venetian artists decorate the church that had to be consecrated anew six times, as it was desecrated by murder and manslaughter. The church is devoted St. Stefano who was stoned.

Portal Bartolomeo Bon big size       Facade
Eduard van de Nül  ‘St. Stefan’ Freie auffassung 1845
Santo Stefano Portal Bartolomeo Bon Venice

Photo: Zairon

His martyrdom was depicted in the 17th century by Sante Peranda, but the painting was never completed. If you enter you have to look up, the ceiling is quite remarkable, at least for people of the terra firma. It’s based on the keel of a ship, something you see more often in this city that flourished on sea trade.

Santo Stefano ceiling big size
Santo Stefano ceiling Venice
Santo Stefano  aisle zoom in      Nave large size
Santo Stefano interior Venice


Santo Stefano sacristy big size
Santo Stefano sacristy Venice

The most important artworks are found in the sacristy (to the east of the nave.  It shows two late artworks by Tintoretto from circa 1580, a Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and The Last Supper. Unfortunately, these paintings are rather dark, but using some coins we can switch on the lights to see it better. At the other side of the church, in the baptistery, Antonio Canova made a Greek pillar for his mecenas Giovanni Falier. Canova was an 18th/19th century sculptor who was very perfectionistic and sculpted in a traditional manner.

Scala Contarini Bovolo big size
Scala Contarini Bovolo Venice

We continue our way and walk along a calle that ends at the Campo Manin. At the end of this calle we find ourselves in front of a remarkable staircase known as the Bovolo or the snail steps.

Scala Contarini del Bovolo

The stairs and the snail
Scala Contarini del Bovolo the stairs and the snail Venice

We buy a ticket and climb up this gothic staircase. At the top we are met with a gorgeous view over the red roofs and labyrinth-like winding roads.

Scala Contarini del Bovolo big size        Detail       Youtube
Scala Contarini del Bovolo Venice
Scala Contarini del Bovolo big size
Scala Contarini del Bovolo Venetice

Foto: Magda Banach

Ca’Loredan and Ca’Farsetti

We head west where we can walk along part of the Canal Grande. This is the location of the Venice municipal building consisting of two palazzi, namely Loredan and Farsetti. We go back in time to the early days, the thirteenth century, when the stone palazzi were first constructed. These two palaces are the oldest in the city. The layouts are customary for Venice: deep, with in the middle a wide part that is flanked by two smaller sides. Something that’s based on the Fondaco dei Turchi. The style is cearly veneto-byzantine.

Ca’Loredan (left)  and Ca’ Farsetti (right) big size The palazzi currently used as municipal building
Ca'Loredan and Ca'Farsetti Venice

We get to see it up close for the first time now. You can also examine what an androne looks like. If we compare these palaces to the Fondaco dei Turchi, you will notice a clear resemblance.

Fondaco dei Turchi big size
Fondaco dei Turchi Venice

If you step on the scaffolding planks, you can see that the upper-most floors were built in later periods. This is the case for nearly all palazzi. Due to a lack of room, there were not many options to build a new building, as the price of ground was too high. Goethe, who visited this city in the 18th century, remarked the following:

‘Homes grow vertically like a line of trees, they are forced to grow vertically as growing horizontally was no longer an option.’

Goethe, Italian Journey 1786 -1788, (1970 edition) p. 77

Ca’Loredan  big size
Ca'Loredan Venice


Ca’Farsetti big size
Ca'Farsetti Venice


 John Ruskin self-portrait 1873

If you look closely, you can make out the transition from the veneto-byzantine style to Gothicism at the first floor arches. Ruskin wrote a famous book about Venice in 1851: ‘The Stones of Venice’ (click here to read the Stones of Venice). He came up with the ‘orders’ of Venice. These orders strive to explain the transition from veneto-byzantine to gothic style. Ruskin’s theory is beautiful, but disregards historical facts. He lists the six orders, namely the following:

  • the first order is the extended arch (byzantine n. 1).
  • the second order is an arch that has a point on the extrados, or outer edge, of the arch with the intrados, or inner edge, still rounded (n. 2).
  • the third order has both the extrados and intrados pointed. In addition, the curved line is not consistent but curves into another direction (n. 3).
  • the fourth order has a trefoil-like shape (n. 4).
  • the fifth order is similar, but has a straight moulding with the trefoil shape placed inside of the arch (n. 5).
  • the sixth order is  the same as the fifth order, except with the addition of a decorative piece above the point of the arch, a kind of finial (n. 6).

This developmental scheme may be put together nicely, but actual development occurred much more erratically. Ruskin knew this. According to Ruskin, the fourth and fifth order are typical for ‘adult’ Gothicism.

Campo S. Barnaba panoramic big size          Rio San Barnaba large size
Campo S. Barnaba Rio Barnaba Venice

We walk back south and cross the Ponte dell’Accademia. Via the Campo S. Barnaba we arrive at the Fondamente Rezzonico. This is where we find the entrance to the land side of the Ca’Rezzonico. The main entrance at the Canal Grande can only be reached by boat.

Click here for a continuation of day 6