San Giorgio Island

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The Island of San Giorgio Maggiore is located in Venice Lagoon, opposite the Basin of St. Mark's, just 400 meters away from the city and a few dozen meters from the island of Giudecca. At the time of the first doges it was called Cypress Island, had a few people who worked in a salt mine and a windmill and already there was built a small church (790 ad) dedicated to San Giorgio ("Major", to distinguish it from another island of Venice Lagoon, San Giorgio in Alga). In 982 Doge Tribuno Memmo donated to the Benedictine Order this island so they could build a monastery. From that year San Giorgio Island increased significantly in importance, also in 1108 or 1109, during the reign of Ordelaffio Falier, was buried in the church the body of Santo Stefano. This anniversary was celebrated for many centuries with a big event that was held in front of the island on the night of Santo Stefano.

San Giorgio Maggiore Island

The Island of San Giorgio Maggiore continued to be embellished in the following years due to the interventions of Doge Sebastiano Ziani, who was buried there in 1178. A terrible earthquake in 1223 caused the devastation of the island, destroying both the church and monastery of the Benedictines. The reconstruction was long and laborious and led to the consecration of a new church in 1419. Since 1433 San Giorgio Island was home to Cosimo I de 'Medici in his short period of exile from Florence. He ordered the construction of the magnificent library, however, it was destroyed by a fire two centuries later. The sixteenth century was the most flourishing period for the island of San Giorgio, with the construction of the first of the two cloisters of the convent (called "degli Allori", which took place between 1516 and 1540). The most recent cloister "dei Cipressi", was built in the period 1576-1614.

Belltower of San Giorgio

The construction of the Church of San Giorgio (the one that can still be admired), began in 1566 and was designed in Neoclassical style by the great architect Andrea Palladio, and continued until his death (1580), then continued under the direction of Longhena that led it to completion in 1610. Longhena even realized the sumptuous Apartment of the Abbots and the Library. San Giorgio's Belltower collapsed in 1774 and was rebuilt in 1791, designed by Benedetto Buratti. With the end of the Venetian Republic in 1797, San Giorgio Island lost much of its importance, while hosting in 1799 the conclave that would elect Pope Pius VII. The convent was suppressed by Napoleon in 1806 (but the basilica was reopened as early as 1808) and the Island of San Giorgio was transformed into a "free port" until 1929, then falling into a state of neglect and decay. The Basin of the island that currently serves as shelter for many sailing boats were built, along with two small lights that surround it, in 1851.

Dock at San Giorgio

Just 100 years later, in 1951, the island of San Giorgio once again played its role in secular art and culture thanks to Count Vittorio Cini. In fact, he will set up the Giorgio Cini Foundation in memory of his young son Giorgio who died tragically in 1949 following a plane crash. S. Giorgio Island returning to life as hosting exhibitions and shows, conferences and awards (including for many years the literary prize "Campiello"). The park was redesigned and built the Teatro Verde (1952). The theater has hosted years ago, during the summer, numerous artistic events such as ballets, concerts and operas. For decades, the island of San Giorgio was also the site of a sailor Professional Institute which has trained qualified personnel on board of ships. On the island of San Giorgio were hosted in 1980 and 1987 the meetings of the G7 (that is actually called G8).

Facade of San Giorgio Church

The most important attraction in the island of San Giorgio Maggiore is certainly the church. The facade is reminiscent of the Basilica del Redentore, located nearby, on the island of Giudecca, designed by Andrea Palladio. On the front you can see the statues of Santo Stefano, San Giorgio and both the busts of the Doges Tribuno Memmo and Sebastiano Ziani. The interior of the Basilica of San Giorgio is majestic, it is comprised by a latin cross with an apse and transept with three naves supported by enormous pillars. You can admire the remarkable paintings made by Carpaccio, Palma il Giovane and Sebastiano Ricci, Bassano and Tintoretto. Among paintings of Tintoretto there are: "The Fall of Manna", "Stoning of Santo Stefano," "The Last Supper" and "The Descent", painted between 1592 and 1594. Remarkable is also the tomb of Doge Leonardo Donà.


The Church of San Giorgio has following opening hours: 9.00 am to 0.50 pm and from 2.30 pm to 6.30 pm (summer), 2.30 pm to 5.00 pm (winter). Free entrance to the church (for information or to request guided tours tel. +39041 5227827). Masses are celebrated as follows: Sundays and holidays 11.00 am, 8.00 am during the week. The Belltower of San Giorgio Island can be visited: 9.30 am to 0.50 pm and from 2.30 pm to 6.00 pm. There is access via a lift to the belfry where you can admire a breathtaking view of Venice and the surrounding lagoon (ticket € 5). The Cini Foundation can be contacted at tel. +39 041 5205558, and to book guided tours (cost € 12.00, 1 hour), call +39 041 5240119.

How to get to the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore

How to get to San Giorgio

In order to get to San Giorgio Island from Piazzale Roma (35-minute ride), Tronchetto (25 min.), Santa Lucia Railway Station (39 min.), Rialto (51 min.) Or S. Marco (stop "S. Zaccaria", 3 minutes), you have to take the public vaporetto number 2 run by ACTV, ticket costs € 7,00. In front of the dock is located Bar Rosa Salva that provides to its customers a terrace with a great view; summer opening hours from 10 am to 7 pm, 11 am to 5 pm in winter, open daily, tel. 3939599220. Also on San Giorgio Island operates two venues of Prada Foundation, tel. +39 041 2412578.

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