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Santa Maria e San Donato

Murano's Veneto-Byzantine gem

Santa Maria e San Donato

Just beyond the glass museum is one of the finest Veneto-Byzantine monuments in Venice, a contemporary of St Mark’s Basilica, with a beautiful arcaded apse reflected in the canal, even if it is altogether far too over-restored by the Austrians according to many critics.

Built in the 7th century, and rebuilt in the 9th century and in 1040, it has a good lunette of the Virgin, and inside, an outstanding 12th-century mosaic pavement (only St Mark’s Basilica has another as fine), incorporating pieces of ancient Murano glass, with geometric figures encircling scenes straight from the Middle Ages: two roosters bearing a fox on a pole, an eagle capturing a lamb, griffins, and other less explicable symbols.

On the wall there’s a fine 12th-century Byzantine mosaic of the Virgin, and some of the capitals are from the same period. To the left a large painted relief represents San Donato of Euboea, the church’s other titular saint, with a flock of midget donors gathered below. His relics were part of an 1125 Venetian relic-raid led by Doge Domenico Michiel, but in this case the holy raiders outdid themselves, bringing home not only San Donato’s bones but those of the dragon, measuring over a metre long, that the good bishop slew with a gob of righteous spit; you can see four hanging behind the altar. In an old wall by the campanile are the bas-reliefs of a war memorial.

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Hours Mon-Sat 9am-6pm; Sun and hols 12.30-6pm

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Fondamenta Giustinian

vaporetto Murano Museo


Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Pierre, Honza Soukup