The Scuola di San Nicolò dei Greci (1678, by Longhena), next to San Giorgio dei Greci is now part of the Hellenic Centre for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies, the only Greek research centre outside of Greece proper. Its collection includes a few works rescued from Constantinople before the Ottoman conquest in 1453, but mostly the icons date from the 16th–18th centuries, pointing up both the glories and the limitations of late Byzantine art as artificially preserved in Venice.
Most conspicuous is its iron-clad conservatism – the Orthodox Church, after all, never looked upon its icons as art but as objects of devotion that reflect the spirit of heaven, and one of the tenets of Orthodox faith is that fashion or style never changes up there. But their conservatism goes farther than that; in a corner of one rare and remarkable 15th-century Nativity, there is a girl pouring water from an amphora who could have stepped off an ancient Greek vase.
Some lively Last Judgements show how powerful and visionary this art could be even in its decay; even better is a 16th-century Jesus and the Samaritan Girl, set in a dreamlike landscape of purple, gold and green, and a fairytale 17th-century Noah’s Ark. Although some of the later icons show that the Greeks weren’t totally immune from contemporary influences, none bristles with the energy of the Cretan-Venetian school’s chief rebel, El Greco, who spent a few years by the lagoon studying Tintoretto and the Bassanos before moving to Spain.
Hours Daily 9-5; ticket desk closes at 4.30.
Campo San Giorgio dei Greci
vaporetto San Zaccaria
+39 041 522 6581
Images by: The Hellenic Institute