One of Venice’s most ancient churches, San Nicolò ‘of the beggars’ was founded in the 7th century, even before the Venetians staged their theft of Santa Claus’ relics from Myra.
Rebuilt again and again, and restored most recently in 1977 by Venice in Peril, it has a Renaissance porch full of old architectural fragments, a detached Veneto-Byzantine campanile, and a sweet golden honey interior, embellished with wood sculptures, paintings by Alvise del Friso, and on the ceiling, a tondo of St Nicholas in Glory, framed with a perspective border by Francesco Montemezzano. The gilded wooden statue of the saint on the altar is attributed to a follower of Bartolomeo Bon.
Inside the main portal is a detailed model of the church’s appearance centuries ago, apparently made from sheets of styrofoam insulation. In a way this little church, as headquarters of the Nicolotti, was the St Mark’s of the west side of the Grand Canal.
The church, its interior under restoration in 1972 and scaffolding already in place, was the one used in Don't Look Now (1973) as the church that Donald Sutherland's character was restoring. In the film, he nearly suffers a fatal fall—a scene Sutherland played himself, as the insurance wasn't in order for the stuntman.
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Campo San Nicolò
vaporetto Santa Marta/ San Basilio.
Image by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls