Venice Church Trail

There are over 200 churches in Venice and the surrounding islands, and most are open to visit without charge. However, 16 of Venice’s leading churches have formed the Chorus Association, which uses admission revenues to finance preservation and restoration work.

The association offers a Chorus Pass that gives access to all 16 member churches. The pass is valid for one year and is worth buying if you plan to visit more than three of these churches. For information on current costs and where to buy it, visit the Chorus Pass information page at www.chorusvenezia.org/en
Or you can book the pass as part of your VeneziaUnica City Pass at www.veneziaunica.it/.

A self-guided walk

Deciding which are the best churches to visit can be overwhelming. To make things easier, you can follow our Venice Church Trail. See the map and details below. This self-guided tour takes you through Venice’s six sestieri (districts), passing our top ten most interesting churches in the city, some of which are included in the Chorus Pass while others are free or make a small charge.

The total distance is 5½ miles (9 kms), which can be halved by missing out three of the churches on the route – D, E and H on the map below.

Zoom in to view route details, or click the little square top right to view a larger map. Details about each church on the trail are below the map.

CASTELLO

Chiesa di San Zaccaria,
in Campo San Zaccaria, (‘A’ on the map)
Monday-Saturday 10-12 and 4-6pm
Sunday 4-6 pm.  Admission free

San Zaccaria church, Venice
Photos by Barbara Ann Weibel

The church is set in a lovely little square, unusually peaceful for one so near St Mark’s and the lagoon. Enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and the beautiful Renaissance façade. It has ancient foundations, but was rebuilt in the fifteenth century. It is filled with masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto and Van Dyck and has a famous altarpiece by Giovanni Bellini.

Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo (‘B’ on the map)
also known to locals as San Zanipolo, in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Follow the signs to Ospedale, which is the nearby civic hospital, famous for its Renaissance facade.

Venice-Santi Giovanni E Paolo Church

Open every day 9-6
Admission: 3.50 euros/ students 1.50 No chorus pass

The Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo is one of the largest squares in Venice and you are bound to be impressed as you enter it. The huge Chiesa dominates, dwarfing the exquisite façade of the hospital and demanding that you have a look inside. It was built between 1330 and 1450 and is often referred to as the Pantheon of Venice because 25 doges were buried there. There are some funeral monuments by Pietro Lombardo, one of Venice’s most famous Renaissance sculptors. The tombs are built to show the respective doges’ power. Note the ceiling paintings by Veronese in the Capella di San Domenico. Note also the beautiful marble floors.

CANNAREGIO

Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli (‘C’ on the map),
Campiello dei Miracoli

Monday-Saturday 10-5
Admission: 3.50 euros/ students 1.50 or Chorus pass

This small but exquisite 15th century church was designed by Pietro Lombardo. It’s tucked away in an area of narrow passages beside a canal and the setting and the exterior, which is covered in marble, are unmissable. The interior walls are also decorated with marble and the coffered ceilings are magnificent. The church was built to worship an image of Saint Mary, previously located in the square. The image was believed to have performed several miracles and can now be seen on the high altar.

I Gesuiti or Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta (‘D’ on the map),
in Campo dei Gesuiti, near Fondamente Nuove, and not to be confused with the other I Gesuati on the Giudecca canal.

Monday-Saturday 10-12 and 3.30-5.30
Admission free

 

A truly spectacular church, set slightly off the beaten path, very close to the water at Fondamente Nuove. On entering, you will have your breath taken away by the massive columns and extraordinary green and white marble work which gives the effect of brocade. It’s hard to tell that the ‘curtain’ draped over the pulpit is in fact marble, so perfect is the effect of the sculpted marble folds. On the walls, note the Martyrdom of St Lawrence by Titian and the Assumption by Tintoretto. The original 12th century church was rebuilt in 18th century by the Jesuits, hence its name. An added bonus, if one is needed, is that you may sometimes enter to the sound of beautiful organ music playing.

La Chiesa della Madonna del Orto (‘E’ on the map),
in Campo dell’Orto

Monday-Saturday 10-5
Admission: 2.50 euros No Chorus Pass since 2013

Although quite a long way out, you must go here if you are a Tintoretto fan. Tintoretto lived near the church (it was his parish church), is entombed in the corner chapel and it houses ten or eleven of his paintings. The reportedly miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary, which gives the church its name, can be seen in the St Mauro Chapel. While the exterior of the church is red brick, Gothic and ornate, with carved galleries of apostles, the general effect is small, peaceful and local. There’s an interesting rounded bell tower that is eastern in influence.

SAN POLO

Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto (‘F’ on the map)
Also known as San Giacometto, in Campo San Giacomo, San Polo, just steps from the Rialto Bridge.

Venice - San Giacomo Di Rialto Church

Monday-Saturday 9-5.
Admission free

The church is interesting mainly because it is believed to be the oldest church in Venice, possibly dating from 421, and restored in 1601. It’s charming and very simple apart from the huge clock on the front (1410) and the outstanding Gothic style portico. Note the beautiful little fountain in front of it where people can fill up their water bottles. Note also Il Gobbo di Rialto (The hunchback of the Rialto), a small sculpture opposite the church. The church’s connection with the Rialto market is represented by an inscription on the exterior encouraging the merchants to be honest and to weigh goods with care and precision, with loyalty to the contract.

Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (‘G’ on the map)
Also known as I Frari, in Campo dei Frari, San Polo

Monday-Saturday 9-6. Sunday 1-6.
Admission: 3.50 euros/ students 1.50 or Chorus pass

This huge church was built in the Italian Gothic style between 1250 and 1338 and rebuilt in the 14th century. While fairly plain from the outside, it contains some of the most beautiful Renaissance art in Venice. Among the masterpieces are paintings by Titian and Bellini and a sculpture on one altar by Donatello. Titian, Canova and Monteverdi, among many others, are entombed here. Note the impressive tomb sculptures and the sculpture of the Moorish slaves. Note the very beautiful choir stalls.

SANTA CROCE

Chiesa di San Giacomo dell’Orio (‘H’ on the map),
in Campo San Giacomo dall’Orio, Santa Croce

Monday to Saturday 10 to 5
Admission: 3.50 euros/ students 1.50 or Chorus pass

Don’t miss it, if only for the glorious open square with shady trees where the church is set. Fewer tourists go here and local children still play. Take time to relax in the cafes and trattorias and admire the church’s campanile, ancient rounded sections and faded pink walls. Dating possibly from the 9th century and rebuilt in 1225, it is one of the oldest churches in Venice. Inside there are several masterpieces of Venetian Renaissance painting, including Lorenzo Lotto, Veronese, Palma il Giovane, Titian and Bassano. Note the amazing ‘ship’s keel’ ceiling and the huge green marble column that the Venetians brought back from Constantinople.

DOSODURO

Chiesa di San Sebastiano (‘I’ on the map),
in Campo San Sebastiano, Dorsoduro

Monday-Saturday, 10-5.
Admission: 3.50 euros/ students 1.50 or Chorus pass

The highly colourful interior of this 15th century church is decorated with floor-to-ceiling masterpieces by Paolo Veronese (also known as Paolo Caliari), which he completed over three decades. This cycle of paintings are called the Veronese and are the most important of all his works. Legend has it that Veronese found sanctuary in the church after fleeing murder charges in Verona. He chose to be buried here and his memorial plaque is to the right of the organ. Don’t miss the colourful sacristy, its coffered ceiling decorated with scenes from the Old Testament. The sacristry also contains works by Tintoretto and Bonifacio de Pitati. Also, don’t miss Titian’s beautiful San Nicolo to the right of the entry.

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (‘J’ on the map),
Fondamenta Salute, Dosoduro

Every day 9-12 and 3-5.30
Admission free
Sacristy 3 euros/1.50 students.

This spectacularly positioned domed baroque church is one of the most iconic sights in Venice. It stands opposite St Mark’s Square, where the Grand Canal enters the lagoon as though guarding the entrance to Venice itself. It was commissioned by the Venetian Senate as a tribute to the Virgin Mary after the end of the plague of 1630, which caused more than 80,000 deaths in the city. The church is said to have mystical curative properties. It has a unique octagonal design and houses 12 works by Titian and one by Tintoretto.

For a full list of about 200 churches in Venice, see www.churchesofvenice.co.uk/venchurches.htm

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