Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Illusion of Grandeur in Santo Stefano, This Afternoon

I've been working on a post on the disputed property of Teatro Marinoni on Lido, but I'm afraid I won't be able to finish that post and have it up until tomorrow. In the meantime, here's an image taken this afternoon inside Santo Stefano, with its famous ship's keel ceiling, and the original fifteenth-century painted decoration over the gothic arches of its nave, which the architectural historian Deborah Howard describes as "a design of flickering foliage not unlike the crockets on the roofline of San Marco" upon diaper-patterned brickwork that resembles the upper walls of the Palazzo Ducale's facade (in The Architectural History of Venice, Yale Univ Press).  

Howard also notes, much to my surprise, that the plan of the church contracts as it progresses toward its main altar in its eastern end to create the illusion that the space is larger than it actually is. That is, that in the case of this church, the usual perspectival illusion that two parallel walls extending away from us actually draw closer together the further they extend is more than just an illusion: the walls really aren't parallel. The next time I'm in the church I must remember to pace out the width of the church near its entrance and then near its altar to confirm this.

But, in any case, it really is a grand church, with one of the most pleasant interiors in Venice. And though it's located in a heavily-traveled area of town not far from the Accademia Bridge, I've never stopped in to find it with more than, at most, three or four people inside, which also makes it a handy refuge.


  1. J'y salue toujours Gabrieli!
    M di venessia

  2. Next time I'm there, I'm going to pause at the entry and see what you showed us in your photo, rather than getting bogged down in the details!

    I look forward to your post on the Teatro Marinoni, Siggie.

    1. I've seen no evidence that you miss anything, Yvonne, but it somehow seems to be both one of the nicest churches in the city and one of the easiest for me to pass through and notice very little. Perhaps because of the absence of any masterwork in the main church?