This church was founded in 1286, not long after the Carmelite Order itself appeared, and was consecrated in 1348. In the 16th century, it was was given a brick and marble Codussi-style facade by Sebastiano Mariano di Lugano. Among the statues crowning the roof are the 'founders' of the Carmelite order, Elisha and Elijah, whose deeds on Mount Carmel attracted the first Carmelite pilgrims and hermits in the late 1100s.
The church preserves its basilican interior from the 14th century, but nearly all the decoration is Baroque. At first glance gilded Aztec cigar-store Indians line the nave; on closer inspection these are painted wooden figures of kings and warriors carved in the 17th and 18th centuries, eerily illuminated by the fluorescent tapers before them.
The sculptural decoration, also of gilded wood, is of the same period, as are the paintings forming a frieze on the history of the Carmelite order. Little of it is grade-A art but the total effect has a monumental, quirky charm.
Image by Didier Descouens, Creative Commons License