The construction works at the Church of Santo Stefano in Venice started in the 13th century, upon the commission of the Augustinian friars, but the edifice underwent significant restoration works in the course of history, such that it accumulated sundry decorative and structural additions of no little importance for its present architectural standing. Thus, the construction proper ended in 1374, and the restoration works carried out in the first half of the 15th century were decisive for the building. For instance, the Gothic door and roof of the church were added later in the course of the 15th century, and the doorway in particular is retained for the artfulness Bartolomeo Bon poured in designing it.

The interior of the church is of special magnificence, being divided in a nave and two aisles lined with slender columns made of red and white marble. The walls are virtually completely covered with frescoes (as are the arches supported by the columns), and the floor complements the color-filled vibe of the overall atmosphere. While the space is filled by the severity of the Gothic lines, there are plenty of sculptural works inside which soften the ambiance with their Renaissance style features, such as Alessandro Vittoria’ Bust of Senator Antonio Zorzi, works by Pietro and Tullio Lombardo (the 15th century tomb of Giacomo Surian, carved in the entrance wall), as well as Senator Giovanni Falier’s tombstone by Canova (other tombs inside the church are the tombs of Doge Andrea Contarini, and of Giovani Gabrieli, Venetian composer and organist).

The pictorial asset is, it too, quite consistent: a Last Supper by Tintoretto (in the sacristy), along with other works by the same artist (the Prayer in the Garden, the Washing of the Disciples’ Feet), a Baptism by Paris Bordon, a Virgin with Child Jesus by Palma il Vecchio, and Jacopo Marieschi’s Immaculate Conception are worth mentioning in this respect. Bartolomeo Vivarini’ Saint Lawrence and Saint Nicholas of Bari, still in the sacristy, is also noteworthy.

The bell tower of the church ensures a strange backdrop to the edifice, given its crumbling look and frailty of structure (it was restored several times and, generally speaking, it is considered unstable and unsafe for visitors). At present, the church does no longer serve the religious needs of the parishioners, but it still remains a nice place to visit while in Venice.

Church of Santo Stefano (Chiesa di Santo Stefano)
Campo Santo Stefano, San Marco, Venice, Italy
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