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Santa Maria del Giglio (Zobenigo)

'Insolent atheism'

Barbaros, Virtues, and town plans

A quirky blossom, Zobenigo isn’t the Venetian attempt to pronounce giglio or ‘lily’, but ‘Jubanico’, the family who erected the first church in the 9th century. It had to be rebuilt several times, lastly in 1680, with a façade by Giuseppe Sardi.

This long memory is a rap on the knuckles of the Barbaro family, who lived nearby. When they rebuilt the church with their own money, they instructed Sardi to devote its entire façade to themselves, without even a nod to religion; a 'manifestation of insolent atheism' grumbled Ruskin.

The four heroic statues by Le Court are of the five Barbaro brothers, no-accounts as far as Venetian history is concerned. Above, allegorical figures of Venice, Virtue, Wisdom, Honour and Fame accompany the clan, while below, reliefs depict war trophies and maps of the towns where Antonio Barbaro (the brother on top) fought in actions; actually you can learn quite a bit about the topography of Rome, Corfu and Padua, while Zara, Spalato and Candia (Heraklion, Crete) are inexplicably unfinished, imposing walls with nothing inside.

Art of a more pious nature clutters the interior, chiefly a pair of Evangelists by Tintoretto behind the altar and the Stations of the Cross along the nave, a memory of an 18th-century competition; each artist contributed two scenes, though no one remembers who won.

You can also see the only work by Rubens in Venice: a Madonna and Child in the Molin Chapel, along with a huge collection of tidily labelled saintly relics.

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Hours Mon-Sat 10.30-4.30

Adm €3

vaporetto Santa Maria del Giglio

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Image by Dennis Jarvis, Creative Commons License