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Chiesa di San Zaccaria information
When 15th-century Venetian girls showed more interest in sailors than saints, they were sent to the convent adjoining San Zaccaria. The wealth showered on the church by their grateful parents is evident. Masterpieces by Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto and Van Dyck crowd the walls. Bellini's altarpiece is such a treasure that Napoleon whisked it away to Paris for 20 years when he plundered the city in 1797.
Founded in the 9th century, the church offers a brief history of Venetian architecture, from its watery Romanesque crypt to its early-Renaissance facade. The latter, begun by Antonio Gambello in the Gothic style, was finished with a flourish by Mauro Codussi, who crowned it with a crescendo of rounded embellishments in white Istrian stone. The church also claims to possess the remains of St Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, as well as the oldest tombs of the doges in Venice.
To your right as you enter, the Cappella di San Atanasio (admission €1) holds Tintoretto’s Birth of St John the Baptist , while Tiepolo depicts the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt in a typically Venetian boat. Both hang above magnificently crafted choir stalls. Behind this chapel you'll find the Gothic Cappella di San Tarasio (also called Cappella d'Oro or the Golden Chapel), with impressive Renaissance-style frescoes by Andrea del Castagno and Francesco da Faenza from the 1440s.
The star of the show, though, is undoubtedly Giovanni Bellini’s Virgin Enthroned with Jesus, an Angel Musician and Saints (1505), which glows like it's plugged into an outlet. Bellini was in his 70s when he painted it and had already been confronted by the first achievements of Giorgione (1477–1510), with his softer sfumato (‘smokey’) technique, which blurred hard lines enhancing the emotional quality of the light, colour and perspective. Bellini’s assimilation of the technique is clear. Not only are his colours typically vivid, but as shafts of sunlight strike the saintly arrangement glows with a diffuse sense of devout spirituality.