The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is located just outside of Venice, Italy, and can be admired from Riva degli Schiavoni, in the famous Saint Mark’s Square. In 790 the first church was built on this island in honor of San Giorgio, and the current name of the island was born. Some 200 years later, the Benedictine monastery was added. However, both of these building were destroyed by earthquakes. The current San Giorgio Maggiore church was designed by the famous Italian architect Andrea Palladio in the 16th century.
San Giorgio Maggiore Church
The San Giorgio Maggiore church is considered a Andrea Palladio’s greatest work. However, Palladio passed before the church was completed. But the church was completed according the Palladio’s original design. The interior has seven (7) main areas: (1) the nave; (2) presbytery; (3) choir; (4) sacristy; (5) first cloister; (6) second cloister; and, (7) the clergy dormitory.
The interior facade is true to Italian churches built in the 16-18th centuries, dressed in gorgeous and elegant white marble. The signature of the San Giorgio Maggiore church is its massive engaged columns and pilasters on undecorated, white colored walls.
Located on both sides of the presbytery are two paintings by Tintoretto, each relate to the institution of the eucharist. The first painting, located on the north side of the presbytery, is Tintoretto’s painting titled The Fall of Manna.
Tintoretto’s other painting, The Last Supper, is on the opposite side of the presbytery.
In the Cappella dei Morti (Chapel of the dead) is a painting of the Entombment of Christ, also by Tintoretto.
The campanile (bell tower) was originally built in 1467, before the construction of the current San Giorgio Maggiore church began. However, in 1774 the bell tower collapsed. Shortly thereafter in 179 the bell tower was rebuilt to its current form, in a neo-classic style.
San Giorgio Maggiore Island History
San Giorgio island was originally known as Insula Memmia, after the Memmo family that owned the island. In 790 the first church was built on this island in honor of San Giorgio, and the current name of the island was born. Some 200 years later, the Benedictine monastery was added. However, both of these building were destroyed by earthquakes.
The monastery was rebuilt in the 13th century after an earthquake. In 1433, Cosimo de Medici lived here during his exile from Florence. The current San Giorgio Maggiore church was designed by the famous Italian architect Andrea Palladio in the 16th century.
In 1797, Napoleon squashed the monastery and ransacked all of its riches. As a result of this pilfering, the island and monastery suffered for many centuries.
In 1800, in hopes of restoring the island to its glory, Pope Pius VII was elected at San Giorgio Maggiore island.
In 1951, Count Vittorio Cini purchased the whole place for his Cini Foundation (www.cini.it), restored it and its library, and it once again became a cultural center hosting international scholars, occasional events and exhibits, and performances in a small open-air Greek-style theater.
Staying at San Giorgio Maggiore Island