Venice: La Giudecca, Burano, San Giorgio, San Lazarro

The quantity and quality of churches, museums and palazzi in Venice is unimaginable. There is a lot to discover for culture lovers, not only in the city itself, but also a little further away. On the nearby island of La Giudecca, the striking white facade of Il Redentore, designed by Palladio, flaunts the viewer. Just to the east lies the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, with the beautiful church of the same name. Similar is San Lazzaro degli Armeni, a monastery island dedicated to Armenian culture and faith. On Murano, the San Pietro Martire and Santi Maria e Donato are worth seeing for the mosaics alone. And after all that culture you can relax on the beach in Lido.

Table of contents

  • San Pietro Martire: parish church of Murano
  • Santi Maria e Donato
  • San Giorgio Maggiore
  • La Giudecca and Il Redentore
  • San Lazzaro degli Armeni
  • Relax in Venice: the beach in Lido

A . San Pietro Martire
B . Santi Maria e Donato
C . San Giorgio Maggiore
D . Il Redentore
E . San Lazzaro degli Armeni
F . Lido
Source: Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430–1516), Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

San Pietro Martire: parish church of Murano

On the island of Murano, known for its beautiful glass production, you will find two beautiful churches. One of these is San Pietro Martire, the island’s parish church. Founded in the fourteenth century as a church of a Dominican monastery, it was beautifully rebuilt in bricks in the sixteenth century. Like many other churches and monasteries in Europe, the San Pietro Martire, dedicated to the martyrdom of Peter, was destroyed under Napoleon’s reign. The monastery was closed and the art treasures stolen. The church therefore looks ‘bare’.
However, two beautiful works remain, which make the church definitely worth seeing during a visit to Murano. There is a Baptism of Christ by Tintoretto ; but it is mainly the beautiful Pala Barbarigo by Giovanni Bellini (1488) that attracts tourists. We see an enthroned Virgin Mary in a radiant blue cloak. She shows the Child Jesus to Doge Agostino Barbarigo (hence the name of the altarpiece). The doge is presented to the Virgin (it seems ‘presented’) by the evangelist Mark, patron of the city. On the right stands Saint Augustine in a beautiful bishop’s robe, with miter and staff. He was the patron saint of the Doge (Agostino). There are two angels playing music; a town and mountains in the background on the right. The Pala Barbarigo is one of the highlights of Bellini’s work and of the entire Renaissance.
Source: Fr:Utilisateur:JB, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.5)

Santi Maria e Donato

This church is one of the oldest churches in Venice. Some parts date from the seventh century. The church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but since 1125 also Saint Donatus of Arezzo. This saint is said to have been bishop of Arezzo and to have been martyred under Emperor Julian the Apostate. His remains were brought to this church in the twelfth century. The church is famous for its beautiful mosaics. Here you can clearly see how Venice was under the influence of the Byzantine Empire for a long time. Also note the bizarre, very large apse: it consists of two floors, a rarity. On the second floor there is a gallery, from which high guests could follow the church services without being noticed.
Source: Didier Descouens, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-4.0)

San Giorgio Maggiore

The small island of San Giorgio Maggiore is an extension of the much larger La Giudecca, to the east. It is a monastery island par excellence. As early as the eighth century, the authorities erected a church for Saint Gregory, pope from 590 to 604. The then church was much more modest than the current complex. The real history of the island begins at the end of the tenth century, when the Doge donated the island to the Benedictine monastic order. They founded a large monastery there. It became even more important when the church managed to retrieve relics of Saint Stephen from Constantinople. This saint, the first martyr of Christianity, is celebrated on December 26.
Due to the increasing importance of the church and its continuing decline, it was decided in 1565 to thoroughly renovate the church and its associated monastery. The assignment was placed in the hands of Andrea Palladio . He gave the facade of the church a typical appearance: beautiful white marble, large Corinthian columns and the ‘triangles’ that run into each other. The church therefore strongly resembles the larger and better balanced Il Redentore. The church’s Campanile is no less than 75 meters high and offers an incomparable view of the city and the islands. Not recommended for people with a fear of heights. The church has two beautiful works by Jacopo Tintoretto : The Search for Manna and The Last Supper . Both canvases appear very busy and unbalanced. The viewer needs some time to fully absorb everything. The
Fondazione Giorgio Cini is now located on the island . This foundation is concerned with studying and preserving all expressions of Venetian culture. She offers guided tours of the monastery and church of San Giorgio. Cost: 10 euros (in 2016). These tours take place every Saturday and Sunday between 10 am and 5 pm. The English guided tours start at 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm. One visits the entire complex, including the famous Stairs of Longhena, the refectory, library and garden. Reservations in advance are not necessary.
Source: Javier Carro, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

La Giudecca and Il Redentore

The Il Redentore church has many similarities with another beautiful Venetian church: Santa Maria della Salute. Both churches were founded after a major plague epidemic. In the middle of the sixteenth century this terrible disease raged in the city. When the plague was contained, the authorities promised to build a church for the Savior of Mankind. Construction started in 1577 and was completed in 1592. The Santa Maria della Salute was founded in 1687 for the same reason. This church is dedicated to Mary. The Redentore was built on the island of La Giudecca, one of the poorest areas of the city. Rode? The view from the sestiere San Marco is magnificent. It continues to remind the Venetians that they must be grateful to Christ.
The architect of the church was none other than Andrea Palladio , one of history’s most famous architects and theorists. The Redentore became one of his masterpieces. He opted (under pressure) for an elongated floor plan, a classic basilica shape. He placed a beautiful white dome in the center, so that elements of central construction were also present. The facade is the real cream of the crop: a series of ‘triangles’ intertwine and yet form a whole. The gigantic Corinthian columns complete the picture. The interior is also sober, but very balanced. The attention of the faithful was, as it were, drawn to the high altar. The church is very valuable architecturally. There are no paintings or sculptures by major artists.
Source: Anton Nossik, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-3.0)

San Lazzaro degli Armeni

The aerial view of the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni immediately makes its charm clear. Just like San Giorgio Maggiore, it is a monastery island. Only monks live here. In the thirteenth century, the island was still used to isolate lepers, somewhat comparable to the island of Molokai, where Father Damien worked. It remained that way until the eighteenth century. Then La Serenissima decided to donate the island to the Armenian community. The Armenians were persecuted by the Turks, and even now the relationship between Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks is often tense. Some of the Armenians ended up in Venice. They were part of the Armenian Catholic Church, part of the Roman Catholic Church. Important: they recognize the authority of the Pope, but have their own traditions and their own liturgy. This liturgy is very similar to the Orthodox variant. They were given this island to give the Armenians the necessary space to experience their culture and faith.
Currently about twenty people live there, mainly monks. These monks belong to the Mechitarists, a monastic order with only about fifty members. It is possible to visit the monastery accompanied by such a priest, but there is only one guided tour per day, around a quarter past three in the afternoon. Of course, the island can only be visited by vaporetto.

Relax in Venice: the beach in Lido

What is more satisfying than relaxing on the beach after a few days of visiting museums and churches? Venice offers one of the oldest beaches in Western Europe: the Lido. This was already used as a relaxing beach in the nineteenth century. The word Lido simply means ‘beach’. The Lido is best reached by vaporetto. Then you arrive at Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, the most important and luxurious street on the island. Please note that most beaches on the island, as is often the case in Italy, are private beaches. They then belong to a nightclub, café or rental company. You then have to pay to get to the beach. There are some public beaches, but they are located at the ends of the island. Even if you don’t want to or can’t lie on the beach, strolling along the boulevard and admiring the beautiful architecture from the nineteenth and early twenty-first centuries is a must!

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