What to See in Venice: Churches in Santa Croce:
Santa Croce has its share of churches, many of which are ancient and not as richly decorated as the churches in the other sestieri. They are nevertheless important because of their early architecture and they are home to many church artwork and interesting legends.
Church of San Stae (S.Eustachio)
The original church that stood on this site was aligned side-on to the Grand Canal. It was demolished in 1678 and Giovanni Grassis built this church facing the Grand Canal. The temple-shaped façade was designed by Domenico Rossi with sculptures by early 18th century artists such as Tarsia and Corradini. Some of the most famous works by Venetian artists can be seen here such as paintings by Ricci, Tiepolo, Pittoni and Piazzetta.
Church San Simeone Piccolo
San Simeone Piccolo is also known as San Simeone e Guida. This 18th century church with its over-sized dome is located across from the Venice train station. The huge dome has attracted mostly unflattering comments: Ruskin thought that it was one of the ugliest churches in Venice and Napoleon is believed to have quipped “I’ve seen churches without domes before, but never a dome without a church.” The Emperor’s got a sense of humour!
Chiesa San Zan Degolà
Chiesa San Zan Degolà (or San Zuane Degolà in Venetian) is dedicated to San Giovanni Decollato (St John the Beheaded). This Venetian-Byzantine church dates back to 1007. Despite the alterations in the 18th century it has maintained its Venetian-Byzantine appearance. There are a couple of gory legends associated with this church, one of which involved a Franciscan priest who officiated at this church. He robbed and murdered an entire family. For his crime he was executed in Piazza San Marco, but first he had his right hand chopped off in front of the door of the family that he had murdered.
Chiesa di San Nicolò da TolentinoCommonly known as Tolentini, the Church of San Nicolò can be found in Campo dei Tolentini close to Piazzale Roma. It was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1590 and was the home of the Theatini monks. The main altar was created by Longhena in 1661 and has sculptures by Justo Le Court.
The Corinthian portico was designed by Andrea Tirali in 1714. There’s a cannonball embedded in the facade which is a reminder of the Austrian bombardment of 1849.
Church of S.Simeone Propheta or San Simeon Grande
There are two San Simeon churches in Santa Croce and to make things a little confusing, San Simeon Grande is actually the smaller than San Simeon Piccolo. It was founded in 967 as a basilica with three naves and retains this layout today despite being rebuilt twice. Although small in size, the church is important because it is said to hold a precious statue of St. Simeon.
Chiesa di San Giacomo Dall’Orio
Originally founded in the 9th century, this church has undergone several rebuilds since that time. There are two theories in regard to the name of the church: One that it was derived from the laurel tree that once stood nearby and the other, that it referred to the ‘luprio‘ or empty marshland that it once stood on, from which the name Orio may have derived. Artworks in this church includes works by Bassano, Lotto, Palma il Giovane and Veronese.
Church by S.Maria Mater Domini
The orginal church was founded around 960. It was demolished and rebuilt in 1503. It is still laid out in the form of a Greek cross although the façade is in Tuscan Renaissance style. Two of the artworks are said to be important: “St Christina” by Catena and Tintoretto’s “Finding of the Cross”.Your Turn: Do you have any advice you would like to share? What tips would you like to add? Please comment below.