Many visitors miss the opportunity to fully illuminate Bellini’s stunning altarpiece. Simply drop a 50 cent coin in the slot and enjoy the explosion of colour that ensues.
Located just to the south-east of St. Mark’s Square, the church of San Zaccaria is a gleaming blend of architectural styles. Building started in 1458 under the direction of architect Antonio Gambello, whose vision was one of a distinctly Gothic church. However, the work was completed by Mauro Codussi nearly 70 years later, by which time the Renaissance style was very much in vogue. The result is an ornate lower façade topped by a distinctive semicircular gable and supporting side quadrants, a mixture whose effortless grace is a testament to the skill of both men.
A Feast of Colour
The interior is visually spectacular. Nearly every wall is covered with paintings from renowned 16th, 17th and 18th century artists. Foremost among these is the magnum opus of Giovanni Bellini, the San Zaccaria Altarpiece, which vividly depicts the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus, surrounded by four saints. One feature of the church which is unique in Venice is the radiating layout of chapels behind the altar. These are not to be missed. The Cappella dell'Addolorata contains curious cases of ancient relics, while the splendid Chapel of San Tarasio houses an almost unbelievably intricate Gothic golden altarpiece, sitting beneath a beautiful set of frescoes.
A Watery Grave
Another remarkable feature of the church is the crypt. As you might expect from a 500-year-old Venetian building, its underground level is flooded, but this merely adds to the romantic ambience. You can admire the reflections of the tombs, which are gently illuminated from above, as they appear to float between the simple stone columns and arches.
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