San Zaccaria

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Chiesa di San Zaccaria
Easter procession to San Zaccaria, painting by Francesco Guardi , oil on canvas, 67 × 98 cm, around 1775–80

San Zaccaria is a church consecrated to St. Zacharias , which belonged to a nunnery of the same name. It is located in the traditional part of town ( sestiere , city sixth) Castello in Venice . The Parish of San Zaccaria also includes the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore on the island of the same name , although the island belongs to the San Marco district.

History of the monastery and church

The monastery of San Zaccaria was, along with the monastery of San Lorenzo, the oldest and most important of the Venetian nunneries in which the rich Venetians housed their unmarried daughters with a good dowry. The alleged foundation of the monastery by the Byzantine emperor Leo V , known as the Armenian, is a legend. Rather, the monastery was probably founded in the 9th century by the Venetian doge Giustiniano Particiaco (or Partecipazio), in whose will it is mentioned for the first time from 828/829.

After the inauguration mass in 864, the Doge Pietro Tradonico was slain by conspirators when leaving the church. Another doge, Vitale Michiel II , was murdered on May 28, 1172 in the immediate vicinity of the church.

The monastery was wealthy, especially in the city of Venice itself, where according to sources from the 14th century it had 153 houses, but also on the mainland, the Terraferma , especially in Monselice in the area of Padua and in Ronco in the area of Verona . Both the area on which St. Mark's Basilica rises and a large part of today's Piazza San Marco originally belonged to San Zaccaria.

The monastery always had close relations with the Doges (eight Doges were buried here in the 9th – 11th centuries) and was always appreciated by the Venetian Signoria , who visited the monastery in a solemn procession on Easter. In the course of the secularization by Napoleon , the monastery buildings were converted into barracks, which are now used by the Carabinieri . The church was not affected by the secularization and now serves as a parish church.

Building history

The decorative facade was begun around 1458 by Antonio Gambelli and from 1483 in the last two decades of the 15th century. completed by Mauro Codussi . The large, newer church building adjoins an older predecessor from 1440 on the left. The two churches do not stand side by side in isolation, but merge, as has occasionally happened. The left aisle of the older church was redesigned to the right of the higher younger church. This later building is actually Gothic in its current form - hence the height - which is hardly noticeable on the outside. This is because the basic Gothic pattern of the facade is dominated by the Renaissance motifs of the upper half of the facade. The three-aisled nave and the polygonal choir were laid out in the first construction phase.


Giovanni Bellini: Sacra Conversazione

Bellini's Sacra Conversazione

The main attraction of the church and at the same time one of the most beautiful Renaissance paintings of all is the Sacra Conversazione by Giovanni Bellini from 1505, i.e. painted around the same time as Leonardo's Mona Lisa. Giovanni Bellini (1430–1516) is the main master of the early Venetian Renaissance . He became famous in art history for the bright, warm colors of his paintings, which have not lost any of their luster to this day.

On the one hand, Bellini's picture exemplifies the principles according to which paintings were composed in the Renaissance and, on the other hand, already in this early picture, a fusion of colors and the effect of plasticity typical for Venetian painting through the color alone, and not through the " disegno ”as with the Florentines.
One of the main problems the painters of the time grappled with in theory and practice was the representation of a plausible space on a flat surface with the help of the central perspective . One prefers a clear, well-arranged order of the picture by clear horizontal and vertical elements such as the architecture in the picture or by the upright standing people on the emphasized horizontal floor and by clearly separated individual motifs.

With Bellini, the painted architecture is not a mere background foil, but rather sets its own contrasting accents to the front group of saints. With its elaborate niche architecture, the upper part of the picture picks up on the actual picture frame for which it was designed and in which it is still located today. If you look closely you will notice that the two pilasters on the outside and the overlay arch are not painted. That is already the church wall. The picture thus makes direct reference to the architecture of the church.

The picture is strictly symmetrical: the center of the picture is clearly emphasized by Mary sitting on a throne and by the angel playing music at her feet. The two groups of people on the sides are arranged symmetrically up to the position of the head of the women. Depicted are the apostle Peter in his typical colors yellow and blue, his key and a book, the church father Jerome dressed in red , behind him Saint Lucia of Syracuse with the glass in which her two eyes swim and finally Saint Catherine with the martyr's palm and the symbol of their martyrdom, the wheel.

Bellini shows his figures calmly and calmly, each one is a tectonic structure in itself. The picture is evenly illuminated and the motifs are carefully distributed over the picture surface - and all in wonderfully bright colors. Here we have the classic Venetian Renaissance image.


  • Herbert Dellwing : The churches of San Zaccaria in Venice. An iconological study , in: Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 37 (1974) 224–234.
  • Andrea Rosemann: The Church of San Zaccaria in Venice , dissertation, TU Berlin 1992. ( full text (PDF file; 4 MB))
  • Silvia Carraro: Dominae in claustro: San Zaccaria tra politica, società e religione nella Venezia alto medievale , in: Reti Medievali Rivista 20 (2019) 373–404.

Web links

Commons : San Zaccaria  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Coordinates: 45 ° 26 ′ 5 ″  N , 12 ° 20 ′ 36 ″  E