Search for more travel tips

The Very Best Churches and Cathedrals in Venice


Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The Very Best Churches and Cathedrals in Venice
Located in a stylishly converted warehouse on the waterfront of the island of Giudecca, our contemporary Venice accommodation offers a less familiar version of a city that can seem besotted with the dreamily picturesque remains of its past, and all the touristic trappings that tend to overwhelm it.
But a desire to experience a more authentic version of Venice doesn’t mean you have to ignore its many historic attractions. You’d be seriously missing out if you did.

Basilica di San Marco

Piazza San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia

To describe Venice’s spectacular wealth of churches and cathedrals as a ‘crowded field’ feels like a banal understatement but, if you did, you’d have to concede that St. Mark’s Cathedral nonetheless stands apart. Initially founded in the 9th Century to house the corpse of St. Mark, this vast, awe-inspiring church only became the city’s cathedral in 1807 (it was previously the chapel of the Doge) which will come as something of a surprise when you behold its stunning, gilded grandiosity – befitting, surely, of the city’s most important religious building. Boasting no less than five domes, St. Mark’s is breathtaking in the scale of its ambition and stands as one of the finest examples Italo-Byzantine architecture. As such, the basilica is home to an array of astounding golden mosaics in the byzantine style and an abundance of opulent, faintly oriental decorative features.

Gary Houston, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, aka I Gesuiti

Salizada dei Spechieri, 4877, 30121 Venezia 

Located behind the Fondamenta Nuove, away from the thronging hordes that mass around many of Venice’s finest churches (note however that this is Venice, so it can still be fairly busy), I Gesuiti turns out to be one of the city’s most ostentatious religious buildings. Completed in 1728, this is a dizzyingly ornate celebration of the baroque style in all its unabashedly excessive glory. Every inch of the interior teems with extravagant decorative touches - the intricate inlaid white and green marble wall designs are especially striking. And if you can wrench your gaze from the stunning decorations, I Gesuti is also home to several important artworks including Titian’s 1558 masterpiece Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence.
Dimitris Kamaras from Athens, Greece, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

San Polo, 3072, 30125 Venezia

Titian is also responsible for the most treasured painting in I Frari – his 1518 Assunta (Assumption) altarpiece panel, a glowing depiction of Mary’s swirling ascent into heaven, painted in a luminous palette that came to define his early career. It’s widely regarded as his first masterpiece. I Frari itself is an imposing gothic church – the city’s second-largest – that presents a plain but majestic brick façade and a vast, awe-inspiring interior dominated by twelve huge pillars, situated between the nave and the aisles, that represent the apostles.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chiesa di San Sebastiano

Campazzo San Sebastiano, 30123 Venezia 

San Sebastiano is notable for its interior, which is effectively dominated by a captivating Paolo Veronese solo show. Works by the great renaissance painter seem to adorn every inch of the church’s interior, presenting an extravagant testament to his extraordinary virtuosity. Legend has it that Veronese was fleeing murder charges in Verona, his hometown, when he found refuge at San Sebastiano and lavished the church with a succession of masterpieces as a show of gratitude. While San Sebastiano’s austere façade is relatively unremarkable, Veronese’s gloriously animated paintings are utterly absorbing and a fine reason to put the church near the top of your must-see list.

Clemensfranz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Campiello dei Miracoli, 30121 Venezia

Santa Maria dei Miracoli was built between 1481 and 1489 to house a miraculous Virgin Mary icon that had, supposedly, begun to weep. Modest in scale, it represents an exciting early exploration of renaissance style, utilising salvaged polychrome marbles (originally earmarked for San Marco) to create a handsome, colourful façade featuring distinctive round windows. It’s easy to see why Santa Maria dei Miracoli is known as the ‘Church of Marble’. Inside you’ll find an exquisitely realised space that showcases early renaissance engineering at its most elegant. In the absence of ornate columns or paintings, the single nave, barrel vault interior relies on expertly executed architectural harmony to create a quietly stunning space that centres, fittingly, on the miraculous image of Virgin and Child that inspired its creation.

Francisco Anzola, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons