Church of San Georgio Maggiore - Table of Contents   .....................  Venice - Table of Contents

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore
Church on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice, Italy

Andrea Palladio
Exterior:  Mannerist
Interior: High Renaissance

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

2016 Photos

The campanile (bell tower), first built in 1467, fell in 1774; it was designed in 1726 by Scalfarotto and rebuilt in 1791 by Fra Benadetto  Buratti in the style of the nearby Neo-classic style campanile in St. Mark's Square.

San Giorgio Maggiore displays an impressive facade to the Piazetta di San Marco across the water.

West facade  ... 
"Instructed to build a a traditionally cruciform church, he concealed the ... plan  with a grand pedimented white marble facade that even though an architectural smoke screen, still expresses the form of the red-brick building behind with its tall nave and lower attendant aisles." - Jonathan Glancey, "Architecture," DK Publishing, 2006, p. 288

Note nave  3-part thermal windows

2016 Photos

Final and lantern atop the cupola  ...  Campanile (bell tower) with conical roof  (detailed below:)

Buttresses above the lower side aisle help support the barrel vault  ... Note  the rounded thermal windows, an Italian response to  European Gothic stained glass windows  ...  Semicircular apse is end of thje north transept

Final and lantern atop the cupola

White marble west elevation, with brick on other elevations  ...  Central pediment flanked by the two halves of a broken pediment   ...

Temple-front:  Element of a facade resembling the front of a Classical temple, with columns or pilasters carrying an entablature and pediment, applied to an elevation, as in a Palladian composition with portico.

"Dissatisfied with earlier solutions to the problem of integrating a high central nave and lower aisles into a unified facade design, Palladio solved it by superimposing a tall, narrow, Classical porch on a low, broad one." - Gardner's Art Through the Ages, Tenth Edition

Palladio’s creative problem-solving was required again when it came to the facade, where the blending of temple and church architecture presented the same challenge he had previously confronted at San Francesco della Vigna. As already noted, Christian basilical architecture involves a difference in height between a tall nave and lower aisles that does not exist in temple architecture, where the height of the interior is uniform. As he did at San Francesco, therefore, Palladio designed the facade of San Giorgio as a combination of two classical temple fronts, one superimposed upon the other. The dominant central element, featuring four giant half-columns of the Composite order, stands in front of the nave, and the sides of its pediment parallel the slope of the roof. The side aisles, fronted by smaller Corinthian pilasters supporting parts of a lower pediment, are clearly subordinate, and the pediment over the aisles looks as if it is hidden by the central section of the facade and might continue behind it."  -   Katherine Fresina, "Palladio's Religious Architecture in Venice," Louisiana State University, 2012, p. 48

Jesus folding globe with  cross bottony

Angel and festoon between flanking Roman (smooth shaft) Composite columns

Keystone  ...  Coat of arms decorates tympanum

Coat of arms: Pope's triple tiara (crown)  ...  Two crossed  keys of St. Peter  behind shield with facing scrolling acanthus C scrolls and lion's feet  ...  Cross bottony with PAX ("peace")

One of the most dramatically placed buildings in Venice is San Giorgio Maggiore, directly across a broad canal from the Piazza San Marco. 

Dissatisfied with earlier solutions to the problem of integrating a high central nave and lower aisles into a unified facade design, Palladio solved it by superimposing a tall, narrow, Classical porch on a low, broad one.  This solution reflects the interior arrangement  of the building, and in that sense is coolly logical, but the intersection of two  temple facades is irrational and ambiguous at the same time, in the Mannerist fashion.

Palladio's design also introduces the illusion of three-dimensional depth, an effect that is intensified  by the strong projection of the central columns and the shadows they cast. The play of shadow across the building's surfaces, its reflection in the water, and its gleaming white against sea and sky create a remarkably colorful effect, looking forward to the Baroque.

The interior of the church lacks the ambiguity of the facade and is firmly rooted in High Renaissance architectural style. It is flooded with light , which crisply defines the contours of the rich wall articulations (pedestals, bases, shafts, capitals, entablatures), all beautifully and "correctly" profiled - the exemplar of what Classical architectural theory means by "rational" organization.
- Gardner's Art Through the Ages, Tenth Edition, by Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner. Harcourt Brace College Pub. 1996, p. 774-75
San Giorgio Maggiore is an example of Palladio’s ability to address the needs of multiple clients and create a functional, unified space, while adhering to his own principles of design. At San Giorgio, Palladio created a facade that served as an impressive backdrop for the Doges’ processions over the water from the Piazzetta di San Marco and, in a sense, functioned as an extension of the buildings of the Piazzetta itself. As always, Palladio found his principal source of inspiration in the architecture of classical antiquity − most notably, Roman temple fronts and baths − to create a noble facade and a majestic interior space worthy of the Doge. He also took into account the importance of music for the Benedictine residents of the monastery to which San Giorgio belonged, designing a choir with the proper acoustics and layout to accommodate a large vocal group.

Located on a small island across the lagoon from the Piazzetta near the tip of the Giudecca, San Giorgio was the first church that Palladio designed completely from the beginning to the end. The island had been the site of a church dedicated to St. George since 790."
-  Katherine Fresina, "Palladio's Religious Architecture in Venice," Louisiana State University, 2012,  p. 40

San Giorgio Maggiore is a 16th-century Benedictine church on the island of the same name in Venice, northern Italy, designed by Andrea Palladio, and built between 1566 and 1610. The church is a basilica in the classical renaissance style and its brilliant white marble gleams above the blue water of the lagoon.

Palladio arrived in Venice in 1560, when the refectory of the monastery was being rebuilt. He made great improvements to this and in 1565, was asked to prepare a model for a new church. The model was completed and approved in 1566 and the foundation stone was laid in the presence of the Pope in the same year. The work was not finished before the death of Palladio in 1580, but the body of the church was complete by 1575, except for the choir behind the altar and the facade. The decoration of the interior was completed subsequently.

The facade is brilliantly white and represents Palladio's solution to the difficulty of adapting a classical temple facade to the form of the Christian church, with its high nave and low side aisles, which had always been a problem. Palladio's solution superimposed two facades, one with a wide pediment and architrave, extending over the nave and both the aisles, apparently supported by a single order of pilasters, and the other with a narrower pediment (the width of the nave) superimposed on top of it with a giant order of engaged columns on high pedestals. On either side of the central portal are statues of Saint George and of Saint Stephen, to whom the church is also dedicated.
Wikipedia: San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice (online Jan. 2017)

Photos and their arrangement 2016 Chuck LaChiusa
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