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San Barnaba

Church of San Barnaba in Venice.It’s easy to hurry past the church of San Barnaba, the focal point of a waterside campo on the route between the Accademia and Campo Santa Margherita. Its foundations date from the 9th century, although this is the third church to be built on the site.

The present church dates from 1749. Architecturally, it is a reworking of the Gesuati, with a classical façade, Corinthian columns and topped by a triangular pediment.

Inside, the single nave has three side altars and a series of frescoes from the school of Tiepolo. The square brick campanile (Bell Tower) was built in the year 1000 and is one of the oldest in Venice.

The 18th century inhabitants of the neighbourhood were known as Barnabotti and included many impoverished noblemen, drawn here by cheap rents. Foreign visitors wrote home about the sight of silk-clad beggars. The nobility were forbidden to work but required to wear silk, creating an interesting sight.

San Barnaba has starred in two Hollywood movies. Katherine Hepburn fell into the adjoining canal in the classic Summertime (1955) and, years later, the church masqueraded as a library in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), in which Harrison Ford encountered most of the rat population of Venice. The church, which follows the Greek rite, often hosts art exhibitions.

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