Church of San Giovanni Elemosinario

Ruga Rialto

A beautiful example of Renaissance architecture hidden among the buildings of the Rialto market.


Historical Background

The church of San Giovanni Elemosinario is very ancient: it was founded before 1071, but nothing remains of the original building because of a terrible fire that destroyed the Rialto area in 1514.

Following this disastrous event, during which many buildings were destroyed, the reconstruction of the church was probably commissioned to Antonio Abbondi called Scarpagnino, who completed it before 1531.

The present building is completely incorporated into its dense urban setting, at the point of making its recognition difficult.
It is probable that this decision is due to two different motivations: the first for the desire of harmonization in the settlement of the area, and the second for the necessity of maintaining an outer space opposite the church where the clergy rented small shops to obtain the slightest sustenance.


The church, a beautiful example of Renaissance architecture, has extraordinary pictorial documents of two great 16th-century artists: Titian and Pordenone.

Tradition narrates that the altarpiece with “Saint Giovanni Elemosinario” by Tiziano and the altarpiece on the right chapel, with “Saints Caterina, Rocco, and Sebastiano” by Pordenone were the result of an ability test between the two artists: completed the altarpiece symbolizing the saint holder of the church, Tiziano left for a trip to Bologna. During his absence, various nobile Venetians commissioned to Pordenone his altarpiece for the chapel with the intention of publicy challenging the abilities of the two artists. Tiziano, at his return remained deeply peeved to see that Pordenone’s work was put in competition with his own.

Actually, stylistic analysis on the two masterpieces push the experts to suppose that the sequency of this event was quite the contrary, seeing as Pordenone’s altarpiece dates from 1530-35, while Tiziano’s dates from 1545-50.

Musical Information

(Aldo Bova “Venezia i luoghi della musica”)

The Nacchini Organ (1749, once judged to be the best of his instruments) has one keyboard and 11 stop knobs; it was modified at the end of the nineteenth century.


Wednesday – Thursday| 10.30 – 13.30
(Ticket offices, bookshop, and last admissions ten minutes before closing time)

At the moment there are no liturgical celebrations