Sestiere San Polo

This is an excerpt from the book “Venice and the Veneto

Rialto Bridge – Photo © Silvia Massetti
Rialto Bridge – Photo © Silvia Massetti

Rialto Bridge

This is the oldest bridge and spans the Grand Canal. It probably dates back to 1172 and was originally in wood. In 1557 the Venetian Republic put out a tender for rebuilding the bridge in stone. The architects who competed for the tender includes Palladio and Sanmichieli.

The tender was awarded to Antonio da Ponte and in 1591 the bridge was inaugurated. This stone bridge on wood piling was built to replace a wooden bridge and an earlier pontoon bridge that once was the only link between the two banks of the Grand Canal.

The shops lining the central passageway make it particularly picturesque.

Palace of Camerlenghi

Located on the right of Rialto Bridge, the palace derives its name from the Camerlenghi, officials who were responsible for raising revenue for the Venetian Republic. The ground floor contained the cells of the tax evaders.

Church of S.Giacometto

Perhaps the oldest church in Venice. It is still laid out in the form of a Greek cross. Opposite, we have the ‘Gobbo di Rialto’ which was built by Pietro da Salo’ in 1541. Next to it, there is the ‘Pietra del bando’ from which the decrees of the Venetian Republic were read out. This was the commercial heart of Venice, where merchants met to hammer out their agreements and where the Banco Giro was located. This bank was already in existence in the twelfth century and enabled credit to circulate. This is a very early church, perhaps the oldest in Venice, whose foundation is probably related to the market that started at the Rialto in 1097.

What shows this relation is the 12th century inscription on the exterior of the apse, that bade the merchants to be honest and trustworthy.

Of its origins the church preserves the Gothic portico with very beautiful capitals, the only surviving one of its kind in Venice, and its quadrangular internal plan.

Photo © Silvia Massetti
Photo © Silvia Massetti

The Fabbriche Nuove

The Fabbriche Nuove were designed by Sansovino in 1555 and housed the government departments that supervised trade.

Church of S.Cassiano

The church may have been built in the tenth century. It contains paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto and Andrea Schiavone

Church of S.Aponal

Dates back to the eleventh century and was built by a family that came from Ravenna. Today it is deconsecrated and closed.

Church of San Polo (S.Paolo)

The present building is the result of different work done in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Paintings by Tintoretto, Palma il Giovane and Gian Domenico Tiepolo, with 14 canvases of the Stations of the Cross.

Originally a Byzantine edifice (the foundation in fact dates from the 9th century), the church has undergone radical alteration twice over the centuries: once in the 15th century when late Gothic stylistic changes were made; and the second time at the beginning of the 19th century in the neoclassical period.

Of the Gothic elements there remains the ogive side portal and the great rose-window of the façade.
Restored after along restoration work that brought to light part of the old 15th century building, the interior is decorated with paintings by J. Tintoretto, G.D. Tiepolo, and P. Veronese.

The bell tower next to the church is a typical exemplar of the Venetian 14th century.

Goldoni House

A fifteenth-century palazzo: it was probably here that the eighteenth century playwright Carlo Goldoni was born. Today it is a theatre -museum and contains documents on Goldoni’s art and life. Birthplace of the celebrated playwrighter, the little Museum of Goldoni miscellany is located here as well as an interesting marionette theatre originally in Ca’ Grimani ai Servi and once held as part of the Ca’ Rezzonico collection.
The premises also boast a most well endowed library of theatre books, documentation and original manuscripts.
The inner courtyard with open staircase is of exquisite beauty.

Photo © James Lawson
Photo © James Lawson

Church of the Frari (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari)

It was built in the fourteenth century by the Franciscans, who settled in Venice from about 1222. Rebuilt in the fifteenth century, it bears witness to the Venetian Republic with paintings by Titian and Bellini. It is an example of Gothic architecture from the middle of the fifteenth century, and has one of the highest bell towers in Venice, which was started in 1361.

Once known as Ca’ Grande, erected between 1236 and 1338 through the efforts of the Conventual Franciscan Friars Minor, it was replaced by a grandiose Gothic Franciscan-style edifice in the 14th century, with a nave and two aisles and seven apsidal chapels.

The imposing 14th century brick bell tower is one of the highest in Venice. The Basilica is one of the most important sacred buildings owing to the wealth of artworks that it houses. The interior, in the Latin cross plan, features precious paintings such as one of the masterpieces of Titian’s mature work, the Altarpiece of the Assumption (1516-1518), intended by the artist for the high altar.

Other works worthy of note are the Triptych of the Virgin and Saints by Giovanni Bellini (1488), located in the Pesaro Chapel of the Sacresty and considered as one of the masterpieces of 15th century Venetian art, and the wooden statue of St John the Baptist, a superb work by Donatello.

Scuola Grande di San Rocco (Confraternity)

Located in the campo bearing the same name. It was in 1478 as a charitable institution. The present building was started in 1489 and finished in the sixteenth century by the architect Giangiacomo dei Grigi. It is famous for a series of paintings by Tintoretto that adorn the rooms. Next to the school there is the church, which is also dedicated to San Rocco. It was built in the sixteenth century and was renovated by Giovanni Scalfurotto in the eighteenth century. Built in the first half of the 16th C, the Guildhall of San Rocco is the home of an extraordinary cycle of canvases by J. Tintoretto, among which eight on the ground floor portray Scenes from the New Testament.

Tintoretto dedicated scenes taken from the Old Testament to the ceiling of the Upper Hall, while on the walls the cycle of paintings includes the great painter’s self-portrait.

Scuola Grande di S.Giovanni Evangelista (Confraternity)

This confraternity was built in 1307. The headquarters was built in the fifteenth century and in 1481 the Bottega dei Lombardi built the impressive gateway in Renaissance style. In 1512 Mauro Codussi rebuilt the great internal staircase. After the school was suppressed by the Napoleonic edicts of 1806 it was acquired by private individuals in 1856 and is still a confraternity today. The Guildhall of St John the Evangelist, dating from the 14th century, was brought to completion in the two succeeding centuries and therefore features elements of both Gothic and Renaissance art.

The splendid grand staircase in the interior, designed by M. Codussi, leads to a great Salon: here it is possible to admire, among other works, paintings by D. Tintoretto.

The ceiling is entirely frescoed by G. Angeli, J. Guarana, D. Tiepolo, and J. Marieschi.

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