Immersed in the evocative atmosphere of Venice, the Church of Santa Maria del Giglio is a Baroque masterpiece that offers visitors an experience of rare beauty.
Also known as the Church of Santa Maria Zobenigo, this religious building shines with its elaborate façade and sumptuous interior and is one of the must-see sights in Venice.
At first glance, it does not look like a church. In fact, there are no Christian elements in its façade or elements that would suggest it is a place of worship. However, every detail of this place tells stories of faith, art and architectural mastery, enchanting anyone who approaches it.
The Church of Santa Maria del Giglio, a Baroque masterpiece in Venice
The church of Santa Maria del Giglio is one of the oldest churches in Venice, although the building we can admire today dates back to the 17th century.
It is one of those unusual places and is part of that large group of buildings in secret Venice that few people know about but which has a special charm.
From ancient documents, we know that there has always been a church on this spot in the city since the 9th century.
However, what we can see today is the result of a Baroque reconstruction that took place in the 17th century.
If the museums of Venice are a concentration of beauty, the churches are no less so, and the church of Santa Maria del Giglio is one example.
The façade is one of the most original to be seen in the city. It is a riot of decoration, with statues, columns and friezes that capture the attention of anyone who walks past. The interior is equally magnificent, with frescoes and paintings adorning the walls, creating an atmosphere of sacredness and beauty.
THE FAÇADE OF THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEL GIGLIO
The façade was designed by Giuseppe Sardi by the testamentary will of Antonio Barbaro, who was Capitano da mar of the Venetian Republic.
There are no saints or holy images but only elements and sculptures and references celebrating the Barbaro family.
The façade of the church of Santa Maria del Giglio is a grand monument to the Barbaro family, including the sites of victorious battles fought in the name of the Serenissima Republic.
The façade was built following the last of the great fires that destroyed the church. The project dates back to 1680 and the Barbaro family paid for it in full with 30,000 ducats.
THE WORKS OF THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEL GIGLIO
Inside the church of Santa Maria del Giglio you can admire a number of works of art of great historical and artistic value. Among the works not to be missed are masterpieces by Palma il Giovane, Sebastiano Ricci, Giambattista Tiepolo, and there is also the only work by Peter Paul Rubens in Venice. Here are the ones worth admiring.
The first masterpiece not to be missed is ‘Madonna and Child with St. John’ by Peter Paul Rubens.
This is an exceptional work for two reasons. The first is that it is the only painting by the Flemish painter Rubens in Venice. We know that the artist had come to Italy in the early 17th century and that his stay lasted about eight years, during which time he made a tour that also took him to Venice. Rubens was in his early twenties, so this is a youthful work influenced by a period of study and strong inspiration from Italian art.
The second reason that makes the work exceptional is the technique used as the painting was executed on paper then applied to a canvas, to which a background was added.
On the backdrop, a tree and possibly a curtain, the reading of the work is unclear, were inserted by another author.
The second work is by Tintoretto, who left a total of three paintings in the Church of Santa Maria del Giglio.
Mary with the Child Jesus (Nativity) on the ceiling of the Molin Chapel is an excellent example of Tintoretto’s talent. The lights and shadows mould the characters and give the work an extraordinary beauty and emotional depth.
The third work to admire when entering the church of Santa Maria del Giglio is ‘The Visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth’ by Palma il Giovane.
A work in which Palma il Giovane’s delicate colours and technical skill make it a masterpiece of the late Venetian Renaissance.
THE BOOK ON THE CHURCHES OF VENICE
If you want to learn more about this and other churches in Venice, I recommend reading the book Churches of Venice, which contains many interesting facts about the city’s sacred buildings.
THE TREASURE OF THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEL GIGLIO
Inside the church, one is drawn to a small room on the right that holds one of Venice’s most fascinating treasures. The Church Treasury is what remains of a collection of works, reliquaries and sacred accessories made of metal and precious stones, which was partly dispersed after the fall of the Venetian Republic (1797).
At present, the treasure is made up of a few dozen objects that testify to a strong devotion and cultural richness that pervaded the city of Venice and even entered the churches, thanks to the creation of works of goldsmithery commissioned to the most important artists of the time.
It is one of the few remaining treasures that have the most famous Treasure of St. Mark’s, at the intent of St. Mark’s Basilica, as their fundamental inspiration.
A visit to the Treasury can be accessed by purchasing a ticket to the church of Santa Maria del Giglio, in exactly the same way as tickets to St. Mark’s Basilica allow one to admire St. Mark’s Treasury.
WHY VISIT THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEL GIGLIO
Immersed in the atmosphere of Santa Maria del Giglio, one can perceive the spirit of devotion that has inspired artists and believers over the centuries. The church represents a place of peace and reflection, where art and spirituality come together in an extraordinary union.
Not visiting it means missing the opportunity to be captivated by the artistic magnificence of this sacred building, to admire the works of art that tell stories of faith and beauty, and to immerse oneself in a unique experience.
The church of Santa Maria del Giglio is ready to offer anyone a moment of contemplation and wonder.
Entering this church also offers the opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Baroque art, discovering a hidden treasure of Venice.
If you are a lover of sacred art, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the most beautiful churches in Venice during your stay. Some are spectacular!