Across the water from St Mark’s Square, facing the Grand Canal and the Giudecca, are three great churches. Two of them, The Redentore and S Maria Maggiore, were designed by Andrea Palladio in the High Renaissance style and the third, Longhena’s Santa Maria Maggiore, in a Venetian version of the baroque which owes a great deal to Palladian prototypes. S Giorgio and Il Redentore were greatly venerated by the grand tourists, not surprisingly given the eighteenth-century admiration for Palladio and Lord Burlington was particularly struck both the machicolations (or ball motifs) of the screen wall at San Giorgio, which he copied at his villa at Chiswick, and by the beauty and ingenuity of the choir screen. Other architects have been inspired by the masterly design of Palladio’s interlocking temple fronts in the Redentore whose structure Beckford found “so simple and elegant” that he thought himself “entering an antique temple and looked about for the statue of the God of Delphi”. The Benedictines who occupied the monastery on the island of San Giorgio, now housing the Cini Foundation, lived extremely well off the produce from their gardens and William Beckford was greatly struck by the similarities between the copiousness of Veronese’s Marriage at Cana, formerly in the Refectory, and the substantial meals enjoyed by the monks.
Longhena’s Santa Maria della Salute, built to give thanks to the Virgin for saving Venice from the plague, combines the dynamic theatricality of the baroque with a harmoniousness closer to Palladio’s Venetian churches than the much more restless churches of the Roman baroque. William Beckford visited all three churches in one morning. Another visitor was Dr. Johnson’s friend, Mrs Thrale (Piozzi) who recorded her indignant comments when refused admission to the convent of San Giorgio because she was a woman: