San Pantalon, is located just to the north of the busy Campo Santa Margherita, in the northern part of the Dorsoduro district.
The church is dedicated to the martyr Saint Pantaleon of Nicomedia, or San Pantalon, in the Venetian dialect; a Christian doctor who lived between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.
Behind the unfinished brick exterior facade, there is much to admire. The interior ceiling features the worlds largest oil painting, “The Martyrdom and Apotheosis of St Pantalon“; measuring 443 sq ft and displaying dramatic illusionistic architectural perspectives of the Baroque period.
Externally, the simple facade shows a central portal, with two lateral smaller doors and a single semi-circular window set higher up.
San Pantalon – History
The church is dedicated to the martyr Saint Pantaleon of Nicomedia, or San Pantalon, in the Venetian dialect; a Christian doctor who lived between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD and was martyred during the Diocletianic Persecution. Nicomedia, is now Izmit in Turkey.
The name means “all-compassionate” and he was the patron saint of midwives and co-patron saint of doctors, along with the famous Cosmas and Damian. Venerated by many Christian Churches, he is part of the group of the so-called “anargyroi” saints: the name given in the Greek Church to the saints who, according to the tradition, practised medicine free of charge. San Pantalon became famous in Venice in the 18th century; due to a play written by Goldoni.
Little information is known, concerning the exact date of foundation and the original appearance of the church; except that it may have been 9th century. It is certain however, that it must have already existed in 1161, the date of a privilege of Pope Alexander III, in which he mentioned the church for the first time. The church was rebuilt in 1222 and the first known consecration, by the bishop of Castello Ramberto Polo; dates back to 1305, during the period of doge Bartolomeo Dandolo.
The famous Barbari map of 1500 (left), shows its facade, facing the Rio de San Pantalon. The plan also shows the remarkable similarity between the church of Santa Margherita and the church of San Pantalon. They both have the same orientation and the two bell towers are both very similar. The residences of Byzantine merchants, or in particular commercial relations with Byzantium; were concentrated in the urban settlement on both sides of the San Pantalon canal.
Its current appearance is due to the architect Francesco Comin from Treviso, who rebuilt it in Baroque style, between 1668 and 1686. The ninety degree rotation of the longitudinal axis of the nave, was certainly a substantial change that made the facade overlook the campo, which until then had overlooked the canal However, the new facade remained unfinished, revealing the brick substructure seen today.
The original church’s tower was restored 1225 and demolished in 1511, possibly after an earthquake. The current tower was built 1704-32, by Tommaso Scalfarotto (left). It has a square plan, a belfry with Serlian openings, a tall circular drum above and topped with a small elongated dome.
The tower is 47m (153ft) high, with the bells operated manually.
San Pantalon – Interior and significant artworks
The outside the building is anonymous due to the unfinished facade. However inside, it is the richness of polychrome decorations that characterises the single nave and its six small side chapels, culminating in the 17th century high altar; that it is to marvel at. It is the work of the architect Giuseppe Sardi. The church houses over 80 valuable works, including the “Madonna with Child” by Paolo Veneziano , the “Coronation of the Virgin” by A. Vivarini and G. d’Alemagna , the “Deposition of Christ” by Padovanino and a splendid Crucifix of the fourteenth century. The figure of the martyr is celebrated with other works placed inside the second chapel on the right: here there are works by Giovanni Antonio Fumiani, Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Palma il Giovane and Gregorio Lazzarini.
The interior has a single wide nave, covered by a vaulted ceiling; with three intercommunicating chapels on each side and a raised presbytery, dominated by the high altar to a design in 1671 of Giuseppe Sardi; featuring a great variety of decorative motifs and polychrome materials.
In 1722, the small rectangular chapel was added to the left of the presbytery known as the Holy Nail; as it housed the relic donated to the church by the last abbess of the Clarisse convent on the island of Santa Chiara. In 1744, the oratory reproduces the whole of the Santa Casa di Loreto and which preserves traces of the frescoes by Pietro Longhi.
CEILING, This baroque style of ceiling by Giovanni Antonio Fumiani, completed between 1680 and 1704, depicts scenes from “The Martyrdom and Glorification of St Pantalon” and features dramatic illusionistic architectural perspectives. It’s the largest oil painting in the world, said to measure around 443 square feet and made up of 40 canvases sewn together.
A discredited story, suggested that the artist fell to his death from scaffolding, whilst painting; but in fact, he died in 1710, six years after the painting was completed. He was thought to have been buried in this church. More of his work can be found in some of the other chapels.
“The Martyrdom and Glorification of St Pantalon”, by Giovanni Antonio Fumiani, completed between 1680 and 1704
The first, Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, has an “Immaculate Madonna with the Archangel Michael and Saint Anthony of Padua”, dated around 1710 by Nicolò Bambini.
The second is the Chapel of the Lady of Sorrows (Addolorata) which has a “Deposition” by Fumiani from c.1700. Also, a Bust of the Redeemer, early 16th century.
Cristoforo Solari (attr.)
The third is the Chapel of the Holy Trinity with a “Holy Trinity with the Virgin and Saints John the Baptist, Peter, Anthony and the Guardian Angel” by Gregorio Lazzarini, from 1723.
LEFT OF THE HIGH ALTAR. There is access to two chapels.
The first is the Capella del Sacro Chiodo (Sacred Nail), added in 1722 and named for the relic donated to the church by the last abbess of the Clarissan convent of Santa Chiara.
The chapel has a late-14th century altar (Venetian) and Virgin and Child statue (French), It contains a mighty impressive large panel of “The Coronation of the Virgin with Saints and Prophets” by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna, Also seen are the “Madonna of the Poppy (Papavero)” with “The Annunciation, Nativity, Presentation at the Temple and Dormition” by Paolo Veneziano, from c.1333.
The second, down a short corridor is the Capella della Santa Casa di Loretta, built in 1744. Of interests, are the fragments of frescos of the “Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels”, by Pietro Longhi from around 1745.
PRESBYTERY. It has a high altar of 1668-71 by Giuseppi Sardi (below) and a “Triumph of the Eucharist” painted by Fumiani in the vault (17th C). The original high altar had been the work of Andrea Palladio from 1557, his first commission in Venice, but was lost during the 17th century rebuilding. The Crucifix is XIV century.
There are three chapels front to back: St Anna, San Pantalon and St Bernadino.
On the right, is the most significant large central chapel, dedicated to San Pantalon. Here can be seen the grand Paolo Veronese altarpiece “The Miracle of San Pantalon” (left) which he began painting a year before he died and which is his last known work.
It was commissioned by Bartolomeo Borghi, the pievano (parish priest) in 1587 and includes his portrait as the priest supporting the boy, who has been killed by a snake bite. The saint is shown curing the boy with prayer whilst ignoring the proffered medicine box. The snake is seen making off the bottom right-hand corner.
Other works in this chapel include:
“San Pantaleone heals a Paralithic“, (left wall) 1599. Jacopo Palma the Younger
“San Pantaleone heals the Sick“, (left lunette) 1702. Gregorio Lazzarini
“San Trousers in Glory“, (dome) ca 1700. Giovanni Antonio Fumiani
“Decapitation of San Pantaleone“, (right wall), 1599. Jacopo Palma il Giovane
“San Pantaleone visits Santa Guiliana on Prison“, (right lunette) 1700 ca. Giovanni Antonio Fumiani
Organ by Gaetano Callido, Op.400: 1803
The BBC included this massive work, on its list of the “ten most beautiful ceilings in the world.”
Whilst John Ruskin, in his typical disdain of all post-Quattrocento works, described the ceiling fresco as a: sorrowful lesson…All the mischief that Paul Veronese did may be seen in the halting and hollow magnificences of them;—all the absurdities, either of painting or piety, under afflatus of vile ambition. Roof puffed up and broken through, as it were, with breath of the fiend from below, instead of pierced by heaven’s light from above; the rags and ruins of Venetian skill, honour, and worship, exploded all together sky-high. Miracles of frantic mistake, of flaunting and thunderous hypocrisy,—universal lie, shouted through speaking-trumpets…(It is) the most curious example in Europe of the vulgar dramatic effects of painting.
Dorsoduro 3765, Campo San Pantalon, 30123 – Venezia Email: email@example.com
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