San Zanipolo

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San Zanipolo
Facade of Zanipolo
Location of the church in the northwest of the Sestiere Castello

Santi Giovanni e Paolo , in Venetian San Zanipolo or just Zanipolo , is one of the largest churches in Venice with a length of almost 100 m . It is located in the northwest of the Sestiere Castello .

San Zanipolo is a Dominican monastery church . It is the largest and most important sacred building of the Venetian Gothic of the 14th and 15th centuries. The church was the preferred grave church of the Doges and numerous aristocratic families. Church patrons are not the two apostles of the same name, but John and Paul of Rome, two martyrs from the time of Constantine the Great . “Zanipolo” is a contraction of the Venetian name forms of “Johannes” and “Paulus”.


Zanipolo is a three-aisled columned basilica with a transept , to which a medium-sized and two small chapels adjoin. All chapels have a polygonal ending. Except for the crossing , which is domed , all components have a ribbed vault .

The church interior is 96 m long, in the nave 28 m wide, the transept is 43 m wide, the vault height is approx. 35 m.

The church is a brick building . Decorative elements on the exterior, such as the frames of the oculi , the friezes , the wreath-like cornice and the high tabernacles on the facade and the portal are made of Istrian stone . The stone vaults are made of plastered cane to reduce the weight of the structure due to the problematic subsoil. As with other Venetian churches, the building is stabilized by wooden tie rods .

Building history

inner space

In 1245 the Doge Jacopo Tiepolo donated a piece of land to the Dominicans to build a church, a long way from the Frari Church , the Franciscan order of mendicants competing with the Dominicans , who had already purchased their building plot in 1234. A construction site is proven for the year 1246. This first Zanipolo church was well advanced in terms of construction in 1258. The Doge Ranieri Zeno (1253-1268) had left 1000  Libra in his will for the portal, the bell tower ( campanile ) and the decoration.

But the church became too small, so a new building was decided, which began in 1333. The apse was completed before 1368, as the oldest tomb in the church dates from this year, that of Marco Giustinian in the Cappella di Santa Maddalena to the right of the presbytery . The first written date of construction is attested by an inscription from 1369 in the transept. A donation from the Procurators of San Marco Pietro Corner and Michele Steno in the amount of 10,000  ducats allowed for the accelerated construction. In 1395 it was “pro media parte inferiori constructam” 'erected to the lower middle section' . In 1417 the central nave was arched and in 1430 the church was consecrated. In 1437 the wealthy brotherhood of goldsmiths and silk traders bought the Scuola San Marco. a neighboring piece of land to build a brotherhood building and made generous donations to the Dominicans for the further construction of the church. The choir was built around the middle of the 15th century and the dome was completed at the end of the 15th century. Only in 1458, thanks to donations, could the portal be commissioned from the architect Bartolomeo Bon , for which ancient columns ( spolia ) from Torcello were used. The choir screen with choir stalls , which was built in the third decade of the 15th century, was demolished in 1683. The high, two-lane tracery windows in the choir, divided by walkways, were built in 1471 (below) and 1510 (above).

In the years 1575 to 1582 the Rosary Chapel (Cappella del Rosario) was donated by the Rosary Brotherhood to commemorate the naval battle of Lepanto . It was built according to a design by Alessandro Vittoria . However, this chapel was destroyed by fire in 1867. It owes its current appearance to a restoration in 1913. The main altar was built between 1638 and 1663 according to designs by Baldassare Longhena and Francesco Cavrioli . In 1682 the choir stalls were removed so that the large church interior came into its own. At the beginning of the 18th century the Cappella di San Domenico was added.

Zanipolo was mostly financed by donations. The establishment of family chapels and grave complexes in churches was always associated with regular donations for masses , which were also continued by the families and heirs in order to secure the memory of the deceased.


Burial of a doge in Zanipolo, Gabriele Bella (around 1733–1799), Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia
Tomb of Doge Tommaso Mocenigo

Zanipolo was the preferred burial place of the Venetian Doges. In addition to many other funerary monuments of Venetian nobili , there are 26 doge tombs from the Gothic to the Baroque era . The Dominican patron Jacopo Tiepolo was the first doge to be buried there in 1249 . His simple marble burial place is on the outer facade wall.

The leading men of the Republic of Venice have been buried here since the middle of the 15th century . Some artists, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini , Lorenzo Lotto and Jacopo Palma the Younger also have their final resting place here. The skin of the governor of Cyprus, Marcantonio Bragadin , who was killed by the Turks in 1571 , is in the right aisle of the church in a tomb erected in 1596. At the beginning of the Renaissance, the wall graves offer new opportunities to combine sculpture and architecture. The “human” sculpture had developed from being integrated into the facade design of the great cathedrals in the high Middle Ages, especially in the portal zone, into an increasingly independent, free-standing figure. These tombs on the interior walls of the church are a new composition, which enabled the sculpture to have a much higher life of its own than the robed figures of the previous high Middle Ages.

Tomb of Doge Pietro Mocenigo by Pietro Lombardo with a sheet mask in the right capital

Scuola Grande di San Marco

Right next to the church is the former Scuola Grande di San Marco , which is now used as a hospital.

Equestrian statue

The equestrian statue of the general ( condottiere ) Bartolomeo Colleoni, cast in 1496, stands on a pedestal that is almost 10 m high and surrounded by columns next to the church .


  • Augusto Gentili: Fonti e problemi del simbolismo antiquario nella vetrata di S. Zanipolo. In: Monica Da Cortà Fumei (ed.): La grande vetrata di San Giovanni e Paolo. Storia, iconologia, restauro. Marsilio, Venice 1982, OCLC 159432091 , pp. 37-49 (Italian); English edition by Peter Newbold (Red.): same, OCLC 931307305 (exhibition catalogs ).
  • Angelo M. Caccin: The Basilica of St. John and Paul in Venice. German Reproduced by Ambrogio Esser. 5th, improved and supplemented edition. Edizioni Zanipolo, Venezia 1969, OCLC 247445242 .
  • Alberto Cannaò: La biblioteca domenicana dei ss Giovanni e Paolo in Venezia (1810–2015) - storia e catalogo. Tesi di laurea 2011/2012, Università Ca 'Foscari, Venice 2015 ( ; Italian summary; limited access to the PDF file).

Web links

Commons : Santi Giovanni e Paolo (Venice)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jan-Christoph Roessler: Santi Giovanni e Paolo. In:, accessed on July 18, 2020 (private website).

Coordinates: 45 ° 26 ′ 20.6 ″  N , 12 ° 20 ′ 31.4 ″  E