San Giovanni in Brágora
Vivaldi's baptismal church, and Campo Bandiera e Moro
Founded according to legend in the 8th century by St Magnus, San Giovanni Battista in Brágora is so old that no one can remember what its odd name might mean (‘in the agora or marketplace’, or maybe ' in the brago' or mud, or maybe in combinations of the two?). It was rebuilt in the Venetian Gothic style, a rather late I-hate-the-Renaissance model in 1475, with a simple, lobed brick façade by Michele Codussi.
San Giovanni’s simple interior retains its original 8th-century columns and ship’s keel roof and contains treasures for all tastes: for relic-mongers, the body of St John the Almsgiver, snatched from Alexandria in 1247, lies in a glass case in the second chapel on the right; plus a pretty 13th-century Byzantine relief over the sacristy door, flanked by Alvise Vivarini’s Resurrected Christ (1498) and Cima da Conegliano’s Constantine and St Helena.
Cima also contributed the church’s chief treasure, the high altar’s Baptism of Christ (1494), recently restored to its original brilliant colours. Other works include a Deposition by Lazzaro Bastiani and in the last chapel on the left, the 15th-century Life of St Nicholas is a reminder of how late Byzantine influences lingered in Venetian art.
The baptismal font is where in 1675 Mrs Vivaldi’s red-headed son was christened Antonio. Apparently there was a hurried first baptism because he was sickly, and a more ceremonious one later.
Also see Campo Bandiera e Moro