When Nicolò di Pietro’s Madonna icon started miraculously weeping in its outdoor shrine around 1480, crowd control became impossible. With pooled resources and marble scavenged from San Marco slag-heaps, neighbours built this chapel (1481–89) to house the painting. Pietro and Tullio Lombardo's miraculous design dropped grandiose Gothic in favour of human-scale harmonies, introducing Renaissance architecture to Venice.
The father-son team creatively repurposed polychrome marbles plundered from Egypt to Syria from the sides of Basilica di San Marco. Note fine scrollwork capitols, and Venetian fish-scale patterns framing veined-marble panels.
The lofty vaulted interior and domed apse seem effortless, but they're marvels of Renaissance engineering, achieved without the Gothic gimmick of buttressing. Look closely at the chancel staircase – there are angels and mermaids carved right into the railings by Tullio Lombardo. In a prime example of Renaissance humanism, Pier Maria Pennacchi filled each of the 50 wooden coffered ceiling panels with a bright-eyed portrait of a saint or prophet dressed as a Venetian, like a class photo in a school yearbook.