Saturday, May 14, 2011



Now we were off to see Palladio's works, with me organizing the mechanics of our trip (vaporetto routes, directions, time allowances and breaks). San Giorgio Maggiore (1566-1610) is one of the most conspicuous churches in Venezia. It stands at the entrance to Venezia on a separate island facing St. Mark's Square. 
Canaletto 1742. partial.
Francesco Guardi, 1780
I didn't think I liked Palladian architecture, but the church was delightful. Of course, Giuliano Fiorenzola's explanations helped open my eyes to its charms. Normally, we would sit in a group around Giuliano for a typically long 'philosophical'—the eternal heart-felt talk. So, when we got to the front steps, we all sat down. 

(What follows is my synthesis of what Giuliano said. I wrote this in my journal the next morning at breakfast, therefore it is less effusive and theoretical, more organized and logical, but still conveys the heart-felt quality of Giuliano's lecture.)

For Palladio, you must put yourself in his time, place and context, for if you don't, he's simply lines on paper or lines in space and rather boring. But realizing the history of Venezia (e.g. protectionism, decoration purely for effect, the trappings of power, etc.) and the time-setting of the 15th Century—at Venezia's zenith of power, with the city expanding, etc.), sets the stage for Palladio. San Giorgio Maggiore is on one of the most magnificent sites in the world
—on another island facing Piazza SaMarco. It was the first major church not built on the main island. During the entire time Roman basilicas were being converted to Christian churches, their façades were not Roman, but were designed in the current style of the era. Palladio on the other hand based his façade on the classical Roman style, using gigantic orders—an impressive result. Even from as far away as the Piazza San Marco is, the church is an imposing sight. 
The interiors were not as important to Palladio. (Just as in most of Venezia, the façade is the important thing.) Even though, the interior of San Giorgio Maggiore is much better than I expected. 
Then Giuliano explained that the interior is really a Florentine derivative (there he went again!) which, of course, explained it??! Even Palladio's famous villas have their exteriors as their major aspect. They are jewels of three dimensional effects, while the insides are very simple—usually a corridor with four rooms.
This was

  ---all One Point!

There were several others just as elaborately drawn, but stated here more simply: Palladio placed great importance on the orientation of his buildings, views, and façades; how the façade is made up of not only the building but also of the plaza in front; his intellectualism as displayed in his buildings; and many other things including his fantastic details and complicated expansion of the orders...
Giuliano asked us if we wanted to see an exhibit of the Venetian paintings by the artist Canaletto that was at the adjoining monastery. I wasn't too interested, because I'd never heard of him, and I wanted to see more architecture. The group decided to view the exhibit. His paintings were magnificent. Most of them were enormous canvases of Venezia during her most powerful time—all painted in incredible detail. 
Canaletto 1747
We then went on to another island to see another Palladio church—Il Rendentore.
It was fancier, but neither as direct, nor as finely detailed as San Giorgio Maggiore, and also the interior was not as well detailed. We didn't make it to the next building due to the closing time, naturally. So, I bought a vino for the group at a viniaio. We sat on the bank looking across to San Marco. It was a grey day, yet beautiful. At my suggestion, we took the long way back: around Venezia by vaporetto. And then at Giuliano’s suggestion, we got off early and walked back to the hotel.

Next, Last Venezia Days.


Caliban said...

San Giorgio Maggiore is a splendid piece of architecture and the lecture on Palladio was quite compelling -- I'm sure you all enjoyed it, sitting right there in front of it.

Hat Pat's black hat is beyond enormous. What a bon vivant!

It's also interesting to see classic Roman architecture as an influence on Il Rendentore, whose full name in English is the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Finally, I was thrilled to see a Monet of San Giorgio Maggiore. It seems so improbable and it is richly rewarding photo to behold.

Caliban said...

By "photo" I meant that the photo of the Monet painting is richly rewarding to behold. (And I did preview of the previous post. Egad.)

Don Voth said...

Robert, It's a fond, vivid memory, sitting on the steps of San Giorgio Maggiore!
Yes, the Monet is grand.