San Pantalon, is located just to the north of the busy Campo Santa Margherita, in the northern part of the Dorsoduro district.
Behind the unfinished brick exterior facade, there is much to admire. The interior ceiling features the worlds largest oil painting, measuring 443 sq ft and displaying dramatic illusionistic architectural perspectives of the Baroque period.
The earliest written record of the Chiesa di San Pantaleone Martire, is dated 1161 in the Kalendarium Venetum, the city’s oldest calendar. However, it was by tradition, thought to be first founded in the 9th century. It was dedicated to Saints Pantaleon (the name means ‘all-compassionate’) and Giuliana, but became reduced to San Pantalon in Venetian dialect.
Saint Pantaleon, a saint martyred in 305 AD, was a doctor from Nicomedia (now Izmit in Turkey). His fame spread throughout the eastern churches and also became famous in Venice in the 18th century, due to a play written by Goldoni.
The church was rebuilt, and finally reconsecrated in 1305 by the bishop of Castello, Ramberto Polo; during the reign of Bartolomeo Dandolo. Both the Barbari map of 1500 and the Merian map of 1635; shows its facade facing Rio de San Pantalon. At a later date an entrance was added facing onto the campo; which was long used as a fish market.
The plan of the Barbari map, allows you to see the remarkable similarity between the church of Santa Margherita and the ancient church of San Pantalon; with the same orientation and the two bell towers are both very similar on the right side of the facade. Alongside the San Pantolon Canal were the residences of Byzantine merchants or those who concentrated on trade with the East.
Interestingly, when the church was rebuilt in 1668-86 by Francesco Comino, the new baroque style was becoming fashionable. The church’s orientation was rotated by 90 degrees, so that the brick facade (a never finished under-structure) faced the campo. It is thought that Comino’s plans for the facade may have been inspired by the church of the Redentore and San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti.
Externally, the simple facade shows a central portal, with two lateral smaller doors and a single semi-circular window set higher up.
The original church’s tower was restored 1225 and demolished in 1511 after an earthquake. The current tower was built 1704-32 by Giovanni Scalfarotto. It has a neo-classical belfry with serlian windows and a tall circular drum above and an elongated dome.
The tower is 47m (153ft) in height, with a manual bell system.
Interior and Art Highlights
The fairly large and tall church is without aisles, but has three deep intercommunicating chapels down each side of the nave.
On entry one immediately notices that it is a dark or gloomy church, with very sparse lighting. However, once your eyes acclimatise the ceiling reveals itself as something very special indeed.
This very 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.
The artist is said to have fallen to his death from the scaffolding here whilst painting, but the fact that he died in 1710, six years after the painting was completed, would seem to discredit this story.
More of his work can be found in some of the other chapels here and he was thought to have been buried in this church.
Down the left side. 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.
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 Lazzini from 1723.
To the left of the high altar there is access to two highlight 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, which formerly hung to the left of the high altar.
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.
Further down a short corridor is the Capella della Santa Casa di Loretta built in 1744. This is medium-sized, dark and brick-walled, with fragments of frescos of the “Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels” by Pietro Longhi from around 1745.
The Presbytery has a high altar of 1668-71 by Giuseppi Sardi (left) and a “Triumph of the Eucharist” painted by Fumiani in the vault. 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 third highlight chapel on the right is the large central one, 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.
When the axis of the church was re-oriented through 90° in the 17th century, this painting which had been over the high altar, kept its west-facing orientation; now being in a chapel in the centre of the right-hand aisle. The” Miracle of San Pantalon” was restored by Venice in Peril for the Genius of Venice exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in 1983 and it came over for the major Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery in 2014.
The saint heals a paralysed boy and is decapitated in the flanking panels by Palma Giovane, with the lunette on the left by Lazzarini and on the right by Fumiani; along with the dome featuring depictions of more scenes from the saint’s life.
Monday to Saturday: 10.00 – 12.30 & 3.30 – 6.00
(until 7.00 on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday)
Sunday: 9.30-12.30 & 3.30-6.00
The church has a stylish website in Italian only: HERE
Dorsoduro 3765, Campo San Pantalon, 30123 – Venezia
Phone: +39 041 52 35 893
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