Chiesa di San Sebastian
Lonely Planet review for Chiesa di San Sebastian
A hidden treasure of Venetian art in the heart of Dorsoduro, this otherwise humble neighbourhood church was embellished with floor-to-ceiling masterpieces by Paolo Veronese over three decades. Antonio Scarpignano’s 1508–48 relatively austere classical facade creates a sense of false modesty from the outside, because inside, the interior decor goes wild.
Veronese’s horses rear over the frames of the coffered ceiling; the organ doors are covered with vivid Veronese masterworks; and in Veronese’s Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian near the altar, the bound saint defiantly stares down his tormentors amid a Venetian crowd of socialites, turbaned traders and Veronese’s signature frisky spaniel. This last work may have held some personal significance for Veronese. According to popular local legend, Veronese found sanctuary at San Sebastian in 1555 after fleeing murder charges in Verona, and his works here deliver lavish thanks to the parish and an especially brilliant poke in the eye of his accusers.
Pay respects to Veronese, who chose to be buried here among his masterpieces, but don’t miss Titian’s San Niccolo and a couple minor works by Tintoretto and Palma Il Giovane in the sacristy. Ongoing restoration may limit access to some artworks, but even so, San Sebastiano offers glimpses of greatness.