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San Francesco di Paola

The church with the painted clock

San Francesco di Paola

Although a church has stood on this site since the 9th century, the current one of 1619 was built for the Minim Friars, who had a monastery here (since demolished for a school). The church is dedicated to their founder, St Francis of Paola, an ascetic vegan from Calabria who became friends with the King of France. Francesco was noted for some wild miracles, such as walking over the Strait of Messina and bringing his pet trout Antonella back to life after a fellow priest had fried her for lunch. The curious painting of a clock on church façade, set forever at 9.30, is said to mark the exact time of his death.

The interior was remodelled in the late 1700s, and preserves its barco (nuns' gallery). You have to look up to see the best of the art—ceiling frescoes by Titian's pupil, Giovanni Contarini. There's also a St Francis de Paul heals a possessed man, generally attributed to Giandomenico Tiepolo.

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Via Giuseppe Garibaldi

vaporetto: Giardini

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Image by Nick Bramhall