This section highlights a small selection of the most important Venetian churches, which are grouped chronologically into two main categories: medieval and Renaissance Churches and Palladian and Baroque churches. Adjacent to many of the churches are the buildings of the scuole, or confraternities, which are among the glories of Venetian Renaissance art.
The churches of Venice, which have so much to offer the visitor, were always on the itinerary of the eighteenth-century grand tourists and their American successors, as they had been on the pilgrim route in earlier times, though sometimes, as Henry James complained, their greatest masterpieces were hidden way in dimly-lit chapels. Wonderful though the museum collections are in Venice, they give only a partial story of Venetian art; whereas, despite the depredations of art sales, Napoleonic looting, and the migration of some of the altarpieces to the Accademia, the churches survive with their collections remarkably intact. There have been a few notable casualties-Titian’s famous Death of St Peter Martyr from San Giovanno e Paolo, which was seen by Amelia Sturgess Morgan in 1858 very shortly before its destruction by fire, and Veronese’s Marriage at Cana from San Giorgio Maggiore, now in the Louvre, which was looted by Napoleon and, unlike the Horses of St Marks, never returned to Venice. These losses, however, are offset by the wonderful altarpieces and sculptural monuments which remain in situ and can be seen today in better viewing conditions than those experienced by Henry James or his eighteenth-century grand tourist predecessors.
Hear Henry James describe the difficulties of viewing paintings in dimly-lit churches in Venice: