Monthly Archives: May 2015

My Renaissance tour of Venice

Roman Pantheon, Public Domain
Roman Pantheon, Public Domain

True to his promise, on Sunday my father took me on a tour of Andrea Palladio’s buildings in Venice. But first he brought out a book and showed me an engraving of the Pantheon, built in ancient Rome. “Remember this, Lucia, and you’ll see how ancient Rome inspired Palladio’s designs.”

Sure enough, when I saw the buildings, I recognized some details from ancient Rome, and will mention them as I describe each of building.

San Francesco della Vigna, design by Palladio, Public Domain
San Francesco della Vigna, design by Palladio, Public Domain

San Francesco della Vigna—My father says this site was once a vineyard, but now, thanks to Palladio’s façade design, looks like a temple from ancient Rome, with its giant, high columns and a triangular pediment just below the roof. Who would have guessed this grand church belongs to the humble Franciscan monks?

Convento della Carita, design by Palladio, Public Domain
Convento della Carita, design by Palladio, Public Domain

Convento della Carità—With its three stories, each with a different type of columns and arches, this grand building looks more like a Roman palace than a monastery.

San Giorgio Maggiore, design by Palladio, Public Domain
San Giorgio Maggiore, design by Palladio, Public Domain

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore—Although we could easily view this huge church from across the lagoon, a gondola ride brought us to the island of San Giorgio, where we could see the church in detail. It’s still under construction, but from what I could see, the front looks like it will be similar to San Francesco della Vigna, with tall columns and the triangular pediment near the top of the façade.

Chiesa del Redentore, Venice (from Character of Renaissance Architecture, by Charles Herbert Moore) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACharacter_of_Renaissance_Architecture_0130.jpg, Pubic Domain
Chiesa del Redentore, Venice (from Character of Renaissance Architecture, by Charles Herbert Moore)
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACharacter_of_Renaissance_Architecture_0130.jpg, Pubic Domain

Finally, our gondola arrived at the Church of the Redeemer. Venice’s Senate commissioned this church in 1576 to thank God for the end of the Plague that killed at least a quarter of our city’s residents. This church, too, is still under construction, but already its façade—with its columns and high triangular-shaped pediment—reminds me of the Pantheon. After it’s finished and the high scaffolding is torn down, this church will have a great dome with a statue of the Redeemer at its apex—a wonderful thank offering to God!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside the Doge’s Palace to see the area that Palladio renovated after a fire. Papa tells me this renovation is magnificent, and I hope to see it someday.

Now I understand why Palladio is described as the architect of the Rinascimento/Renaissance: his buildings make me want to believe that ancient Rome has been reborn in Venice!

Ciao,

Lucia

 

Andrea Palladio–the wise one of Venice

Anonymous portrait of Palladio, copied by G.B. Maganza, Public Domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APalladio_filtered.jpg
Anonymous portrait of Palladio, copied by G.B. Maganza, Public Domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APalladio_filtered.jpg

“You’re asking me how the Rinascimento/Renaissance affects your life?” Papa grinned at me. “Lucia, the Renaissance is right before your eyes here in Venice, if you know where to look! I’ll show you.”

My father promised that after Mass next Sunday, he’d take me around Venice, by foot and gondola, and show me the buildings designed by Andrea Palladio, the great architect that Venice claims as its own.

What makes Palladio an architect of the Renaissance? Here’s how my father explained it: Palladio looked back to ancient Roman architecture as his inspiration, and incorporated its best features into his own buildings. He spent years carving monuments and sculpture before his employer, Gian Giorgio Trissino, sent him to Rome to study ancient architecture and the writings of the Roman architect Vitruvius.

Palladio returned to Venetian territory and designed buildings using classical Roman style. His employer was so impressed by the new designs that he gave the young Andrea a new surname, Palladio (Greek for “Wise One”).

Papa says the Venetian Republic loves Palladio’s style because Venice is a worthy heir of the ancient Roman Empire.

Our tour won’t take me to see the many buildings Palladio designed before he came to Venice, but Papa assures me there will be plenty to see in our city.

“One more thing, Lucia. He was a writer as well as an architect.” My father pulled a book from his shelf and showed me Palladio’s guide to Rome’s classical ruins, containing the architect’s own sketches. Papa told me that Palladio’s other written work, Quattro Libri dell’ Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture) revealed his design secrets and gave advice to builders, so every architect in Venice wants a copy. As soon as people view his buildings, they can see that Palladio is the “Wise One.”

I’m counting the days until my tour, and will report on it next time!

Ciao,

Lucia