Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Santi Giovanni e Paolo, is in the Castello district and has the status of a minor basilica of the Dominican order. Of brick construction, it is built in Italian Gothic style

In contrast to the brick exterior, the attached Scuola Grande di San Marco, has a wonderful marble and white Istrian stone facade; which also forms the entrance to one of Venice’s main hospitals. 

Also known as “San Zanipolo” in Venetian, it is the biggest church in the city and interestingly, it is far apart from the “Frari”, the main Franciscan centre. 

Twenty-five doges are buried in the church, as well as many notables artists, dignitaries and military characters. After the 15th century, the funeral services of all of Venice’s doges were held here. 

The increasing role of the Basilica in State celebrations, led to the demolition of the Choir in 1682; so as to enlarge the space for the solemn city functions. Closely connected with the destiny of the Serenissima Republic, after San Marco; the minor Basilica was considered to be the Representative Church. 



Canaletto (1697-1768), Venezia, campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, 1736-1740

Santi Giovanni e Paolo – HISTORY

A church on this site was thought to have existed in the late 10th century, but evidence of its existence; was not documented until 1184.

Around 1234, the land for this church was presented by order of Doge Jacopo Tiepolo and the Dominican’s first church, was completed during the 13th century. This was after a dream, which he presented to the Senate, of a vision of a marshy area full of wonderful flowers; flown over by white doves and crowds of singing angels.

Their first church was demolished in 1333 and work on a much larger church began. By 1368, the apses and transepts were finished, but delayed due to funding shortages until 1390; when the Maggior Consiglio (Grand Council) gave the Dominicans, 10,000 ducats to continue.

By 1430, the nave was completed and the church was consecrated, with Bon’s portal being added between 1458-62.  It was part of a planned marble facade, that was never completed.

Rather like the Frari, San Zanipolo is also called a “Venetian Pantheon”; as it has twenty-five tombs of doges.

The church was not named after the apostles John and Paul (Giovanni and Paolo); but actually, after two obscure soldier-martyr saints of the same names. Their images can be seen in a stained-glass window; alongside Saints George and Theodore.

In 1807, during the Napoleonic era, the Dominicans were removed from their convent, which was transformed into a hospital, and the church was deprived of numerous works of art.

Santi Giovanni e Paolo is a parish church of the Vicariate of San Marco-Castello. Other churches of the parish are San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti, the Ospedaletto and the Beata Vergine Addolorata.


The dimensions of the church are impressive: 101.60 meters in length, 45.80 meters in width in the transept area, and 32.20 meters in height. The church, surprisingly has no separate campanile; only a small short integrated bell-tower, with 3 bells tuned to D major.

The church’s facade is in Gothic style, characterised by a large central rose window and two smaller lateral ones. The lower order of the facade is characterized by six niches and by the large grand portal, decorated with six marble columns, work of the sculptor Bartolomeo Bon. (1458-62). The columns are said to have been salvaged from a church on Torcello and mix classical details into its essentially gothic form as stylistic taste moved on.

The central part of the facade is crowned by three elaborate temple spiers, which house the statues of three major Dominican saints: Saint Dominic in the centre, Saint Peter martyr on the left and Saint Thomas Aquinas on the right.

The Renaissance Equestrian Statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni (1483), by Andrea del Verrocchio, is located next to the church.


Closely connected with the destiny of the Serenissima Republic, after San Marco. the minor Basilica was considered to be the Representative Church.

The grand interior is impressive and open; cross-vaulted on 10 wide plain Istrian stone columns and substantial wooden tie beams. Somewhat similar to the Frari, apart from the fact that San Zanipolo lost its wooden choir in 1682; making the space feel larger and airier.

Visually, you are drawn to the well-lit choir, with its tall Gothic windows and  Baroque high altar, attributed to Longhena.  t has the biggest gothic and polychrome stained-glassed window in Venice. It is an extraordinary one of a kind, since it was produced in Murano glass, by the master glassmaker Giannantonio Licinio da Lodi in the XVI century, probably to the design of Bartolomeo di Vivarini .

Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo is considered the pantheon of Venice, thanks to the large number of Venetian doges and other important people who were buried there since the 13th century. At least 150 tombstones and 37 monumental sepulchres are preserved inside, with 25 of them dedicated to the doges of Venice.

The most important monuments are the one belonging to the Mocenigo doges, entirely occupying the counter-facade of the Basilica, the one dedicated to doge Michele Morosini, located in the presbytery, and the one of doge Jacopo Tiepolo, founder of the church.

Giovanni e Gentile Bellini, two of the most famous Venetians artists; are also buried here.

Among the most significant works of art in the church, stands the marvellous polyptych of Saint Vincenzo Ferrer by Giovanni Bellini, the Byzantine icon of Madonna della Pace, and the pictorial cycle from the Chapel of the Madonna del Rosario, work of Paolo Veronese.

Significant Artworks and Monuments.

  • Giovanni Bellini “Vincent Ferrer” polyptych below (Saints Vincent Ferrer, Christopher and Sebastian in the south aisle). It is in its original frame and an early work. The polyptych was painted around 1465-8, when the influence of the sculptural style of Mantegna, his brother-in-law; was still strong on Giovanni. 


  • Bartolomeo Bon (the great west doorway)
  • Cima da Conegliano or Giovanni Martini da Udine (Coronation of the Virgin in the south transept)
  • Lorenzo Gramiccia (Madonna del Rosario in Capella di Trinita)
  • Piero di Niccolò Lamberti and Giovanni di Martino (tomb of Doge Tommaso Mocenigo in the north aisle)
  • Gregorio Lazzarini (sala S. Tommaso)
  • Pietro Lombardo (tombs of Doge Pietro Mocenigo on the west wall and Doges Pasquale Malipiero and Nicolo Marcello in the north aisle; tomb of Alvise Diedo in the south aisle)
  • Tullio Lombardo and ?Alessandro Leopardo (tomb of Doge Andrea Vendramin on the north wall of the choir)
  • Lorenzo Lotto (St Antonine in the south transept) 
  • Rocco Marconi (Christ between SS Peter and Andrew in the south transept)
  • Giuseppe Maria Mazza (five large bronze reliefs depicting the miracles of Saint Dominic in the Chapel of San Dominico)
  • Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (St Dominic in Glory on the ceiling of the Capella di San Domenico)
  • Alvise Tagliapietra, (reliefs in the Chapel of the Rosary)
  • Veronese (The Assumption, The Annunciation and The Adoration of the Magi on the ceiling of the Capella del Rosario (below); The Adoration of the Shepherds in the Capella del Rosario). The famous The Feast in the House of Levi, painted for the refectory, is now in the Accademia Gallery.

(Note. The Chapel of the Rosary (photo below left): was built in 1582 to commemorate the victory of Lepanto, originally contained paintings by Tintoretto, Palma the Younger, Titian (The Assassination of Saint Peter Martyr) and Giovanni Bellini, among others. It was  destroyed by fire in 1867. The Veronese ceiling paintings (below right), were originally from the lost church of Santa Maria dell’Umiltà. Following its demolition, they were taken to Vienna in 1821 and returned to Venice at the end of World War I and finally installed here in 1925.




  • Alessandro Vittoria (St Jerome in the north aisle)
  • Alvise Vivarini (Christ carrying the Cross in the sacristy)
  • Bartolomeo Vivarini (Three Saints in the north aisle)
  • Also to be seen is the “Madonna della Pace, a miraculous Byzantine statue situated in its own chapel in the south aisle and the church’s chief relic a foot of Saint Catherine of Siena.


 Funerary Monuments

The twenty-five tombs of doges are perhaps the most impressive feature to most people. After the 15th century all of their funerals were held here. Especially fine are the three tombs for the Mocinego doges on the main west entrance wall interior.

Below: the tombs of Giovanni (left) and Tomasso  Moconego (right)












List of Doges Monuments

Jacopo Tiepolo (d. 1249)

Marco Cornaro (d. 1368)

Michele Morosini (d. 1382)

Antonio Venier (d. 1400)

Michele Steno (d. 1413)

Tommaso Mocenigo (d. 1423)

Marino Morosini (d. 1253)

Reniero Zeno (d. 1268)

Lorenzo Tiepolo (d. 1275)

Giovanni Dolfin (d. 1361)

Pasquale Malipiero (d. 1462)

Nicolo Marcello (d. 1474)

Pietro Mocenigo (d. 1476)

Andrea Vendramin (d. 1478)

Giovanni Mocenigo (d. 1485)

Leonardo Loredan (d. 1521)

Alvise I Mocenigo (d. 1577)

Sebastiano Venier (d. 1578)

Bertucci Valier (d. 1658)

Silvestro Valier (d. 1700)

Tomb of Niccolò Orsini di Pitigliano


Other notable people buried in the church include:

Orazio Baglioni (d. 1617), general

Gentile Bellini (d. 1507), artist

Giovanni Bellini (d. 1516), artist

Gianbattista Bonzi (d. 1508), senator

Bartolomeo Bragadin (poet)

Marco Antonio Bragadin (d.1571), general, flayed alive by the Turks – the tomb contains only his skin.

Jacopo Cavalli (d. 1384), general

Alvise Diedo, commander-in-chief

Marino Faliero (d. 1355), the 55th Doge of Venice, beheaded

Marco Giustiniani (d. 1346), sea captain

Pompeo Giustiniani (d. 1616), condottiere

Palma the Younger (d. 1628), artist

Vettor Pisani (d. 1380), admiral

Niccolò Orsini, (d. 1510), commander-in-chief (photo left)

Leonardo da Prato (d.1511), condottiere

Alvise Trevisan (d. 1528)

Edward Windsor, 3rd Baron Windsor (d. 1574)

Vincenzo Benedetti, (d. 1658) Below

Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo
Castello 6363
30122 Venezia
Tel. +39 041 5235913

Opening times (as of 15.9.22 but best to check)
Weekdays: from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
Public holidays: from 12.00 pm to 6 pm
*At Christmas and Easter the Basilica closes from 12.30 pm to 4 pm.

Vaporetto: Ospedale lines 41, 42, 51 and 52. For many, a better option is to go to Rialto and walk in north-northeast direction.

Scuola Grande di San Marco.



Please see my post Scuola Grande di San Marco

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