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San Giovanni Elemosinario

Near the Rialto market, but hard to find

Patron Saint Distributing Alms, by Titian

The church of St John the Almsgiver, the Patriarch of Alexandria (whose relics were installed in the church of San Giovanni in Brágora), was founded sometime before 1051, then rebuilt by Scarpagnino. It preserves its Greek cross plan, although outside of its bell tower and entrance, it's been totally engulfed by other buildings.

It is famous for two paintings: Titian’s Patron Saint Distributing Alms (1545) on the high altar (paid for by the Casteletti, the guild of lottery clerks) and in the chapel to the right, Pordenone’s Santi Catherine, Roch and Sebastian (1533), a painting Venetian in its colouring but quirky Tuscan Mannerist in its composition. The paintings in the cupola, rediscovered after a recent restoration are also by Pordenone’s brush.

Art scholars tend to dismiss a story in Vasari's Lives of the Artists, that some members of the Venetian nobility were egging Pordenone on while he worked on this church, to show Titian once and for all his superior painting skills, so that when Titian returned from a journey, he was furious to find that Pordenone had become more popular in Venice than he himself. The fact that Pordenone's altarpiece is now considered to be the older of the two paintings, it suggests that just the opposite happened.

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San Giovanni is Chorus church.

Hours Mon-Sat 10am-5pm

Adm €3

Vaporetto Rialto


Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: PD Art