AUTHOR: Francesco Smeraldi


CHURCH: Basilica of San Pietro di Castello

DATE: 1594-1596

LOCATION: Castle – Campo San Pietro

TECHNIQUE: brickwork

The island of San Pietro di Castello was among the first inhabited in the lagoon when Venice was not yet built. It was once called Olivolo: for some this name derives from the Greek oligos (small) perhaps due to the size of the castle that stood there for others, however, from the olive groves that flourished there. During the 7th century, a first church dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus was founded, attached to the Byzantine castle which, in 774, was rebuilt by Bishop Magno in honor of Saint Peter to become the bishop’s seat. From 1451 the building became a patriarchal seat maintaining this function until 1807. The current architectural complex is divided into a body rebuilt, following the fire starting from 1619 by the architect Giangirolamo Graniglia, and a previous facade built at the end of the sixteenth century by the architect Smeraldi on the model of Palladio. The facade is tripartite like the internal layout of the church in a central part that is higher than the two side wings. The model is faithful to the Palladian scheme in the superimposition of two elevations of classical temples in order to harmoniously connect the main nave with the secondary ones. In the center is the large portal flanked by Corinthian pilasters and surmounted by a triangular tympanum. On the sides, two pairs of coupled composite columns, on high pedestals, support the main tympanum while the rectangular attic hides the connection with the nave. Lo Smeraldi also adopts in the lateral wings those formal solutions used in the definition of the central portal.