Chiesa di San Francesco della Vigna
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Lonely Planet review
Designed and built by Jacopo Sansovino with a facade by Palladio, this enchanting Franciscan church is one of Venice’s most underappreciated attractions. The Madonna positively glows in Bellini’s 1507 Madonna and Saints in the Cappella Santa , just off the flower-carpeted cloister , while swimming angels and strutting birds steal the scene in the delightful Virgin Enthroned, by Antonio da Negroponte (c 1460–70). Bring €0.20 to illuminate them.
Palladio and the Madonna are tough acts to follow, but father-son sculptors Pietro and Tullio Lombardo make their own mark with their 15th-century marble reliefs that recount the lives of Christ and an assortment of saints. Housed in the Cappella Giustiniani , just left of the altar, they are storytelling triumphs. Breezes seem to ripple through carved-marble trees, and lifelike lions seem prepared to pounce right off the wall. And keep your eye on the expressive reactions of minor figures in these biblical narratives. They provide a running commentary on the action, right down to the startled mule.
Out the back, the bell tower looks like the long-lost twin of the Campanile di San Marco and, facing north, a couple of steps leading to a portico of classical columns make the campo look like a proper ancient-Roman agora (market place). This makes a sociable setting for Venice’s best annual block party, the Festa di Francesco della Vigna , with wine and rustic fare served up in the stately shadow of Palladio; it's usually held the third week in June.