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The island of Giudecca is not a sestiere, I know, but its separateness and unique character make it deserving of its own page I think.
Officially it's part of the sestiere of Dorsoduro and the church of San Giorgio Maggiore is part of the sestiere of San Marco.



  Le Convertite Santa Maria Maddalena
Il Redentore
San Gerardo Sagredo
San Giorgio Maggiore
Santa Croce
Santi Cosma e Damiano
Le Zittele
Santa Maria della Presentazione


Le Convertite

A convent founded in houses between 1530 and 1534, not until 1542-48 did the Augustinian sisters move to purpose-built premises, part of a complex including a convent and a hospice for reformed prostitutes and other sexually 'tainted' women. There was enlargement and rebuilding work on the oratory later in the same century was paid for by the merchant Bartolomeo Bontempelli, with reconsecration in 1579. Originally named for Mary Magdalene it became known as Le Convertite to reflect its role in converting 'fallen' women.
The institution soon became notorious, however, due to its rector Fra Giovanni Pietro Leon using the 400 nuns as his personal harem. He would 'test' the women when they came to confess by fondling them during confession - if they resisted he would congratulate them on their resisting temptation. And then imprison and punish them until they gave in. He was denounced to the Council of Ten in 1561 and beheaded in Piazza San Marco. It took 13 attempts with the axe, evidently, before his head was removed with a knife. This was seen as evidence that beheading was deemed by God as too light a punishment for a man so wicked. and his remains were burned.

Suppressed by the French in 1806, the complex became a hospital before the Austrians made it into a jail in 1857. It is still a women's prison, the entrance is under the flag to the right of the façade in the photo.
On Thursday mornings organic fruit and vegetables grown by the inmates in the prison gardens are sold from a stall in front of the church.

Lost art
Palma Giovane painted The Apotheosis of St Mary Magdalen for the ceiling of the church here, with chiaroscuri of The Evangelists and Old Testament Scenes. All are now lost.


Visible on the Merian map (see right).

The church on TV
In an episode of a 2010 Jamie Oliver cookery series Jamie does Venice he visits the prison, to pick vegetables from the gardens and cook minestrone soup for some suitably surly inmates.

Vaporetto Sant’Eufemia




Il Redentore
Andrea Palladio/Antonio Da Ponte 1577-92


Fiorenza Corner and Teodosia Scripiana built a church and hermitage dedicated to Santa Maria degli Angeli, which was given to Fra Bonaventura degli Emmanueli and his Capuchins in 1541. They were expelled five years later by the heretic Fra Bernadino Ochino, finding refuge in the nearby (now lost) monastery of Sant'Angelo, and then returning here in 1548 when the monastery was destroyed and the heretic expelled.
A new church was commissioned from Palladio by the Republic to give thanks for the end of the 1575/7 plague (which killed 50,000 people but which was not as bad as the one of
1630-31 which took 46,000 people, 30% of Venice’s population, and which resulted in the building of the Salute). Other sites considered included the Clarissan convent of Santa Croce and San Vidal. The church of the Redentore (Redeemer) was built for ceremony, on the site of the church of San Jacopo. The first stone was laid on May 3rd 1577, with consecration taking place on September 27th 1592. The project had been supervised by Antonio Da Ponte, the proto of the Salt Office. Palladio had died in 1580.  The church was assigned to the Capuchin Order, an order of observant Franciscans, who then built a new monastery next door.
Palladio's original design was for a centrally-planned church like the Pantheon, but this was rejected for being too pagan. What was eventually built is more longitudinal and reckoned to be Palladio's finest church. The high and wide staircase and the huge doorway are designed for processions and the church is made to be seen from afar - the best view being from the Zattere opposite. The attached monastery later became a barracks.

The Festival of the Redentore, giving thanks for the end of the plague, continues. Every year on the third Sunday in July a bridge on barges is built from the Zattere so that Venetians can make the pilgrimage previously lead by the Doge and the Signoria. This ritual had been added to the Dogal calendar just months after the laying of the first stone. The festival is also famous for the fireworks the night before.

The facade
The high and wide (15 step) stairway leads up to a façade which reflects the interior - the central three bays under the large pediment echo the nave, with the wings representing the depth of the side chapels. In the niches either side of the single entrance are statues of Saint Mark and Saint Francis. On top of the facade are Faith and two angels, with Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Laurence Giustiniani flanking them lower down. A lead-covered wooden statue of The Redeemer is on top of the dome's lantern. All very Franciscan in the choice of subjects.


An unusually uncluttered interior, mostly because of the church belonging to Capuchin monks, a very reformed branch of the Franciscan Order, who agreed to take it on providing their observance of vows of poverty was respected. So, no extravagance, no remunerative funerary masses and monuments, and one elegantly unembellished interior, their choir even more so. Monumental, high, pale and airy (due to the many thermal windows) and very Palladian. The wide and aisleless nave has a barrel vault and three connected barrel-vaulted chapels on each side. Over the crossing there's a balustraded dome, and there are chapels at each end which contain no altars and were built so that the Doge and Signoria could sit unobserved by the common herd in the nave. The friar's retrochoir, with its undecorated wooden stalls, is behind a curved screen of columns behind the high altar. It lacks the grandeur of the nave, and indeed of Palladio's choir in San Giorgio Maggiore, due to the Capuchin's more austere values.

Art highlights
There's some middling art (the two late Tintorettos, from the late 1580s, a Flagellation and an Ascension, are 'school of' and the 'school of' Veronese looks very like a Tintoretto) so even a more glowing Palma Giovane Deposition stands out a bit. Recent scholarship has it that the Tintorettos are largely the work of Jacopo's son Domenico. The Veronese Baptism of Christ was commissioned for the Stravazino chapel in 1561, during the artist's lifetime but finished and signed by his brother Benedetto and sons Carlo and Gabriele. In fact the altarpieces in all six nave chapels (the other two are by Francesco Bassano) have a unifying dark Tintoretto aspect to them. These chapels tell the story of Christ in processional order, beginning with the first chapel on the right, Franceso Bassano's Nativity, along to a Crucifix over the high altar. The story continues with Palma il Giovane's Deposition at the beginning of the left aisle, which sequence ends with an Ascension by Tintoretto's workshop. The bronze Crucifix, by Gerolamo Campagna, a close friend of Francesco Bassano, is flanked over the altar by bronze statues of Saint Mark and Saint Francis by the same sculptor, symbolising the partnership between the state and the Capuchins.
The not-often-open sacristy, unmentioned on the Chorus info sheet and barely mentioned on the church's own leaflet, is a definite highlight. It is accessed through the last chapel in the nave on the right. A lot of paintings mostly of the Virgin and Child, including one I especially liked by Rocco Marconi, another by Alvise Vivarini, another Palma Giovane, and a Baptism by Veronese. Also lots of reliquaries and twelve creepy 18th-century wax heads of Franciscan saints under glass domes, complete with real hair and Murano-glass eyes.

Lost art
In 1618 a Capuchine friar, Paolo Piazza (Padre Cosmo da Castelfranco) was commissioned to paint a series of monochrome grisaille figures, in imitation of sculpture, for niches in the nave. These were of Prophets, Sibyls, The Four Evangelists and The Four Latin Doctors of the Church. In 1640 The Twelve Apostles by another friar Padre Massimo da Verona, where created for the drum. All have now been dispersed, but are visible in a photo from before 1950, see right.
Francesco Bissolo, a pupil of Giovanni Bellini, painted Christ exchanging the crown of thorns for a crown of gold with Saint Catherine for the Redentore, but it is now in the Accademia.
A Crucifixion and a Nativity by Andrea Previtali were transferred from this church to the Accademia in 1897, but must have been painted for a different church originally.

Campanile 48m (136ft) electromechanical bells
Two minaret-like towers

The church in art

Doge Alvise Mocenigo Kneeling Before a Model of Il Redentore of c.1630 by il Padovannino is in the collection of Marchesa Olga di Cadaval in Venice
The Church of the Redentore by Canaletto (see above) from the Manchester Art Gallery. The demolished church of San Giacomo della Giudecca is visible to the right. A version in the Woburn collection shows San Giacomo much closer to the Redentore.
The Depositing of John Bellini's Three Pictures in the Church of the Redentore, Venice by J.M.W. Turner shows the three Bellini paintings arriving in splendid procession in gondolas. This almost definitely never happened, especially as the paintings in question, which were also mentioned in George Eliot's Journals in 1864 and William Dean Howells' Venetian Life of 1866 (see below) and by Ruskin, have since been reattributed to Bellini-pupil Francesco Bissolo and to Alvise Vivarini.
Il Redentore, an oil painting by Duncan Grant, 1948.

Ruskin wrote

It contains three interesting John Bellinis, and also, in the sacristy, a most beautiful Paul Veronese.

William Dean Howells wrote
Giudecca produces a variety of beggar, the most truculent and tenacious in all Venice, and it has a convent of lazy Capuchin friars who are likewise beggars. To them belongs the church of the Redentore, which only the Madonnas of Bellini in the sacristy make worthy to be seen.

Opening times
Monday to Saturday: 10.30  - 1.30 and 2.30 - 5.00
Sundays: closed
A Chorus Church

A NO PHOTO! church




The church of San Jacopo which was
demolished to build the Redentore.


A 1742 print made by Fabio Berardi after a Redentore-centred capriccio by Canaletto.


San Gerardo Sagredo



This is a brutally modern concrete church built from 1961 to plans by Renato Renosto amongst the modern flats on the Sacca Fisola to provide a church for the then-new residents. Inside are murals painted by Casaril and works by E. Costantini.

It is named after the Venetian-born Dominican bishop who sailed from San Giorgio Maggiore to convert the Hungarians in 1020. His duties there included the education of Saint Emeric of Hungary, the son of Saint Stephen of Hungary. He was martyred in Budapest on a hill now named after him. It is said that he was placed on a 2-wheel cart, hauled to the top of the hill and rolled down, but still being alive at the bottom he was beaten to death. Other versions say he was put in a spiked barrel before being rolled down the hill. He was canonized in 1083, along with Saints Stephen and Emeric, and is one of the patron saints of Hungary. Some of his remains were translated to Santi Maria e Donato on Murano in 1333 and the urn is brought to San Giorgio Maggiore on every hundredth anniversary of his departure from that church to spend a night there.



Photo by Ryan Kasler

San Giorgio Maggiore
Andrea Palladio/Simeone Sorella  1565-97

this church now has its own page



Founded in 865 and initially dedicated to four female saints - Euphemia, Dorothy, Tecla and Erasma, but as time passed the first saint's name came to dominate. The church became known colloquially as Famia and was renovated in 952. Reconsecrated in 1371 after rebuilding and renovated in the second half of the 16th century and again in the mid-18th, when it acquired new altars and the stucco decoration to the interior on the upper walls and ceiling.

The church
The portico along the side (visible in the photo right) is by Michele Sanmicheli and was donated by Giovanni Stucky in 1883. It dates from 1596 and was actually designed as the choir of the church of Santi Biagio e Cataldo, which was demolished to make way for the Stucky mill (now a swanky hotel) nearby. The 14th century Crucifixion above the main door comes from this demolished church too.

Retains its Veneto-Byzantine form despite later restorations and decoration, with some columns and capitals dating from the 11th
century. A surprising interior which has an old shell below, with old columns, that contrasts strongly with the flouncy rococo decoration above - all white, pale green and gilt. This effect is accentuated by the plaster on the lower part of the walls having been mostly chipped away to reveal the rough brickwork.

Art highlights
The paintings around the chancel are uninspiring works by
some followers of Veronese. Ceiling frescoes by Giambattista Canal, a follower of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The art highlight is Saint Roch and the Angel by Bartolomeo Vivarini (originally the central panel of a triptych which also featured Saint Sebastian and Saint Louis) with a lunette above of The Virgin and Child, both restored in 2008. There's also a Morleiter statue of The Pieta, where the body of Christ rests on a rock rather than in the usual maternal lap. This church's factsheet tells us that The Adoration of the Magi by Marieschi is 'no longer in place'.

Campanile 10m (33ft) electromechanical bells
The current tower dates from the mid-18th century, restored in 1883. A drawing by Canaletto of around 1730 shows it once had a taller one with a sugar-loaf spire. As does a detail from a map of 1635 (right).

Opening times
Mon-Sat: 8.00-12.00 and 3.00-5.00
Sun 3.00-7.00

Vaporetto Sant’Eufemia






Interior photo above by David Orme







Santa Croce
Maestro Pellegrini   1508-15


The church and convent were founded in the 13th century, it is said, with the first documented mention in 1322. Eufamia Giustiniani entered this convent in 1425 at the age of seventeen and was the abbess here from 1440 to 1487. She was also the niece of Lorenzo Giustiniani, the bishop of San Pietro di Castello and later the first patriarch of Venice.
The Giustiniani were one the of the four great patrician families in Venice, and claimed to be able to trace their ancestry back to the emperor Justinian. While she was abbess only four nuns died in the plague of 1446 and a knight who turned up at the door and asked for water was later identified as having been Saint Sebastian himself, so the well here was renamed after him and the waters were said to have miraculous powers. 
Prosperity and growth lead to the the church being rebuilt 1508-11, with a façade in the Tuscan style by an architect going by the name of Maestro Pellegrini. This is the church we see today.
The church and convent were suppressed in 1806 with the nuns moving to San Zaccaria and the complex becoming a prison. I have also read that it was later used by an old people's home. Quite recently restored, it is currently being used for storage by the Venetian public records office.
Upon suppression the relics of the blessed Eufemia were moved to the private chapel of the Giustiniani family on the Zattere. There they remained here until December 14, 1915, when the patriarch Pietro La Fontaine had them transferred to San Pietro di Castello, where they remain.


Visible on the Merian map of 1635 (see right).

Lost art
A Virgin and Child by Lazzaro Bastiani from c.1465, from this convent, now in the Accademia.

S. Antonio da Padova, S. Eliodoro and S. Filippo Neri
by Antonio Zanchi now in San
Pietro Martire on Murano, supposedly.

Vaporetto Redentore



Interior photo by Agnes Exenschläger.

Santi Cosma e Damiano
Antonio Abbondi (Scarpagnino)  1498

A convent was established here in 1481 by a Benedictine nun called Marina Celsi, who had been abbess at San Matteo on Murano and of Sant'Eufamia on Mazzorbo. The first stone was laid in 1491, with work completed in 1498. Not consecrated in 1583, it was said that Mauro Codussi may have had a hand in the design of the church, he having been working at the time on San Michele in Isola and San Zaccaria, also for the Benedictines, but the architect is now thought to have been Antonio Abbondi, called Scarpagnino.
Upon suppression by Napoleon in 1806 the nuns moved to San Zaccaria. The church was stripped and became a warehouse, a barracks, and in 1887 a hospice for cholera victims. Sold in 1897 to the Herion Brothers who converted it into a textile factory (see interior photo right with the upper part of the chancel and two side chapels in the background) which it remained until the 1970s. The church was restored quite recently for use as office space for small businesses, the convent buildings having been long since converted to housing.

(thanks to Nicola Naccari for the fresh (November 2023) information and the photo)

Whilst the nave contains the offices mentioned above, the chancel and flanking chapels  are free from obstruction and can still be appreciated (see photo below right). The late-17th-century fresco in the dome of the chancel is The Virgin with Female Saints by Girolamo Pellegrini. Suitably the saints are all female, including Agnes, Lucy, Mary Magdalene, Giustina, Margaret and Agatha. It recently underwent restoration work during which a fresco of the Annunciation, attributed to Francesco Salviati, from 1539/40 was discovered on the triumphal arch. This work was unknown before the restoration work as it had been hidden behind a false ceiling since the 17th century.

In the dome's drum, between the windows on its west side, are the Doctors of the Church, in the apsidal semi-dome is a the Trinity, with Saint John the Baptist, Saint Peter and a Glory of Angels, and in the side lunettes below there are Sibyls. In the spandrels are the Four Evangelists: three of them are by Giuseppe Porta, a pupil of Salviati, while one, Saint John, is by an unknown hand.
Nothing remains in the chapels flanking the apse, but in front of the left apse there are some fragments of the tombstones of Marina Celsi, the Benedictine nun who founded the convent, and of Benedetto Flangini, the convent's doctor, and hence the only man that the cloistered nuns would've seen.

Lost art
A small panel showing the top halves of Saints Benedict, Tecla and Cosmas by Giovanni Buonconsiglio (called Marescalco) from 1497 is now in the Accademia. It was part of an altarpiece of The Virgin and Child with Saints which was partially destroyed, perhaps by a fire here in 1740/41.

The church housed the Tintoretto Virgin and Child with Saints Cecilia,
Theodore (or Secondus?), Marina, Cosmas and Damian of c.1579, originally on the first altar on the left, also now to be found in the Accademia, and a Crucifixion by him. Also a Virgin and Child with Saints by Palma Giovane and a Marriage of Saint Catherine by Padovanino.
Giambattista Tiepolo's early Scourge of the Serpents (aka The Brazen Serpent) (see detail right) now in the Accademia - the 13 metre long thin painting that was long displayed in Room 11 having been rolled up for 60 years (and boy did it look it!) But it was recently restored and is now to be found, looking long and impressive at eye level, in the new 17th and 18th-century galleries there on the ground floor, which opened in August 2021. Painted around 1732/4, it originally covered the lower portion of the nuns' barco at the back of this church.
It was one of a cycle of paintings filling the church in the 17th and 18th century which elicited much contemporary praise. Charles de Brosses praised many of the paintings and Coronelli in his 1744 guide said 'Here can be seen very many Paintings all by famous Artists, and these paintings deserve to be seen'. These included four paintings of Old Testament subjects by Zanchi and a Sacrifice of Saul painted to hang amongst them by Antonio Molinari. All are long lost, but drawings for them have been identified.
Also three by Sebastiano Ricci from c.1716-17 - Solomon Speaking to the People at the Dedication of the Temple, now in the Duomo in Thiene, Moses Striking Water from the Rock at Horeb, now in the Cini Foundation, and The Transportation of the Holy Ark, now in the Brera. Thematically the works are all Old Testament concentrations on the threats to the ancient Hebrews, which hung amongst the other Old Testament scenes mentioned above and chimed
nicely with contemporary worries about the upsurge of threats to the Venetian state, particularly following their setbacks during the war in Corfu, stressing as they do the facing of big foes by strong leaders.
Later in the 18th century subjects shifted to the New Testament with come Pittoni's Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and Angelo Trevisani's Cleansing of the Temple which are both now in a church in Somaglia.
Bringing the total number of thematically-linked biblical paintings in this church to thirteen, two less often reported works are The Finding of Moses by in the Nile by Crosato and The Centurion Before Christ by Brusaferro.

The church still has its spire on the Merian map of 1635 (see below right).

Once used by the military, later as a hostel for the homeless and studio space. Currently being used as housing.

The church in art
The church appears in Giudecca, a watercolour by John Singer Sargent. Venice a watercolour view by Clara Montalba in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool features this church's singular campanile.

Opening times

It has been suggested that if you ring the doorbell during business hours and ask nicely admittance might be granted.

Vaporetto Sant’Eufemia



Nuns and Reform Art in Early Modern Venice by Benjamin Paul



A photo from the late 19th-century showing the original
windows, including the lunettes down the side.

Le Zitelle
Andrea Palladio/Jacopo Bozzetto 1581-88


The church of Santa Maria della Presentazione is better known as Le Zitelle, or 'The Spinsters', since here was built a hospice for 'beautiful girls' from poor families whose beauty was thought to put them in danger of falling into prostitution. A prevention regime, then, as opposed to the nearby Convertite's concentration on helping already-fallen women. Poor young virgins were taken in, some as young as 12, and trained in lace and music making. The location was to help with their isolation. They were kept protected until they were 18, when they could choose between marriage or the nunnery. If they chose marriage a husband was found and a dowry was provided. The hospice was founded by the Jesuit Benedetto Palmio in 1558, with the first forty women arriving here in 1561, and was patronised by Venetian noblewomen. Following the expansion of the accommodation from the mid-1560s the church, arguably based on designs by Palladio of around 1576 for a different church, was built by Jacopo Bozzetto from 1581 to 1585. There is an argument that if the design isn't Palladio's own, it is at least the beginning of Palladianism.

The church
The Palladian façade with its large thermal window is flanked by the wings of the hospice. The buildings extend around the back with a cloister behind the church. The complex is now a luxury hotel.

A small barrel-vaulted vestibule leads to a square nave, the curved-off corners of which give the impression of an octagon. The girls' choir galleries, which take form of thermal windows with grills over the side altars, were reached from the flanking buildings.

Art highlights
There are works here by Palma Giovane, Antonio Vassilacchi (a Greek painter and pupil of Paolo Veronese, also known as L'Aliense) and Francesco Bassano, whose Presentation of the Virgin is the high altarpiece. He was one of the four sons of the better known Jacopo.

The church in art
The Giudecca with the Zitelle by Franceso Guardi, in the National Gallery in London. Another version (see below) is to be found in the Kunsthaus Zurich.

Opening times

The church seems to have been acquired for visits by the company that runs the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, but you have to book in advance.

Vaporetto Zitelle





Interior photo courtesy of the internet.


Cannaregio :: Castello :: Dorsoduro :: Giudecca :: San Marco :: San Polo :: Santa Croce :: The Islands :: Demolished