The church of San Francesco della Vigna is one of the significant Venice churches. The name comes from St. Francis and the vineyards that belonged to the Ziani family. Marco Ziani was a wealthy Venetian. He left the estate and the vineyard to the Friars Minor, the Franciscans. Today, this church and Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari are the only Franciscan churches in Venice. The oldest urban vineyard and the vegetable garden are gorgeous but closed to the public. Yet, San Francesco della Vigna compensates for it by hosting an annual festival with tasty wine and rustic food. You can enjoy the event in the third week of June. Don't forget to check out Scuola di San Pasquale sitting next to the church.
Getting to the church
Getting to San Francesco della Vigna is easy. If you check the Venice map, you'll see that the closest station is Celestia. Arsenale and Ospedale are a bit further, but no more than 10 minutes walking distance. You can get there by bus or ferry.
History & architecture
According to the legend, the location of the church is special. It is where St. Mark appeared after the shipwreck and met an angel who told him about his destiny. The original church, built in the 14th century, was in Gothic style and had a small convent for the Friars Minor. San Francesco della Vigna was then rebuilt in 1534 by Jacopo Sansovino and completed in 1554 in Renaissance style. In 1564, Andrea Palladio started the marble façade construction, which ended in 1566. Two enormous statues of Moses and St. Paul on the façade are the works of Tiziano Aspetti. The church also features a free-standing 70-meter-tall campanile, built in 1543.
San Francesco della Vigna stands on a Latin cross plan with a single large nave. There are five chapels on each side of the church. There is also a presbytery at the end, divided by the central altar. The interior of the church, with its columns and arches, is modest but majestic. The entire structure is inspired by Kabbalistic theories, thanks to the will of Father Francesco Zorzi.
Why you should visit
San Francesco della Vigna is one of those churches with exciting and valuable art pieces. Each chapel features the art of the Venetian school, for instance, the Grimani chapel. Its ceiling paintings by Battista Franco or the altarpiece and the murals by Federico Zuccari are stunning. The Contarini chapel, dedicated to St. Francis, has The Virgin in Glory and Saints by Palma il Giovane. The Malipiero Badoer chapel holds the Resurrection of Christ by Paolo Veronese. Another intriguing piece is the Virgin and Child Enthroned by Antonio da Negroponte. There are also works by Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Giovanni Bellini, and the Lombardo brothers.
The church and the library were seized and looted during the Napoleonic era. But since 1877, the Venetian people and the friars had managed to increase the number of books. There are over 80 000 books and 13 000 antique books in the library. The church complex also has a magnificent monastery, serving as an event space for concerts and Biennale expositions. There is also a cemetery with the graves of many Venetian nobles.
Things to do in the area
With veniceXplorer it's fun and easy to explore Venice. Castello is the city's largest neighborhood, with many attractions and things to do. Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, San Zaccaria, and Chiesa della Pietà are the best-known Venice churches nearby. You can also see Arsenale, Venice's major naval base. To feel the city's atmosphere, stroll around Via Garibaldi, full of shops and restaurants. If you'd instead explore other famous Venice sites, walk about 15 minutes southeast and reach San Marco. You'll find the prominent Bridge of Sighs, Correr Museum, and St. Mark's Basilica.
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