“It is supremely appropriate that everything dedicated to [God] should be made to the highest level of perfection of which we are capable.” I came across these words a month ago, reading Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura, a treatise that espoused “the essential principles that must be followed by all intelligent men eager to build well and gracefully.” Today, after visiting several churches designed by Palladio, I am confident that I have been witness to the perfection that Palladio demanded. Returning to the serene backstreets that I visited on my first day in Venice, I suddenly found myself standing in front of the Church of San Francesco della Vigna, the first church that Palladio built in Venice.
While its close proximity to less consequential buildings initially prevented me from fully appreciating Palladio’s work on the façade, as the exterior completely came into view, I froze. At last, I could admire firsthand Palladio’s genius solution of two superimposed temple fronts, that had been the subject of class lectures the previous month. After a look at the San Francesco della Vigna’s beautiful interior, we hopped on a vaporetto headed for Palladio’s second Venetian church, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
Stepping inside, the brilliant whiteness found within the structure –made possible by Palladio’s employment of stucco in the interior and brilliant use of natural light– left me astounded. Incredible paintings and sculptures of wood and stone also adorned the church and its lavish Benedictine Choir. (I was most impressed with Tintoretto’s Last Supper, a painting in which Tintoretto incorporated the church’s congregation to express their deep devotion.)
Re-boarding the vaporetto, Palladio’s final church, Il Redentore, inspired in part by the Pantheon, was a few short stops away. Palladio’s combination of both Istrian stone and local marmorino brick on the church’s façade and buttresses made for a beautiful exterior, which was only surpassed by the harmonious interior –smaller but more exquisite than the San Giorgio.
After a break for lunch, we visited the recently reopened Palazzo Grimani, where I was mesmerized by the marble-encrusted sculpture gallery with a floating statue of Ganymede, despite its emptiness.
Following the visit, we received a private tour of the Palace of the Patriarch, with an extraordinary sequence on the life of St. Catherine of Alexandria by Tintoretto, and a sublime St. Joseph and Christ Child by Tiepolo.
On our way to dinner on the Giudecca, graced by a Venetian sunset, we stopped at the Skyline Bar at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, once the site of a flourmill and granary, for a Venetian aperitif with an exceptional view of the silhouette of this miraculous city.