San Zaccaria

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Set in a quiet square just a stone’s throw from the Riva degli Schiavoni, the church of San Zaccaria is a successful blend of flamboyant Gothic and classical Renaissance styles. Founded in the 9th century, it was completely rebuilt between 1444 and 1515. Antonio Gambello began the façade in Gothic style, but died in 1481. Mauro Coducci completed the upper section, adding all the classical detail.

The adjoining Benedictine convent, which had close links with the church, became quite notorious for the riotous behaviour of the nuns. The majority were from families of Venetian nobility, many of them sent to the convent to avoid the expense of a dowry.

Every Easter, the Doge came with his entourage to San Zaccaria, a custom which began as an expression of gratitude to the nuns, who had relinquished part of their gardens and looms so that Piazza San Marco could be enlarged.

The artistic highlight of the interior is Giovanni Bellini’s richly coloured and serene Madonna and Child with Saints (1505) in the north aisle.

On the right of the church is a door to the Chapel of St. Athanasius, which leads to the Chapel of San Tarasio. The chapel is decorated with vault frescoes by Andrea del Castagno of Florence. The relics of eight doges lie buried in the waterlogged crypt.