It is impossible to describe all the jewels kept in the Basilica di San Marco, the heart of Venice’s political and religious life for the last millennium. Its origin goes back to a legend that, in the year 828, two Venetian fishermen managed to get hold of the body of Mark the Evangelist, kept in Alexandria in Egypt, and brought his relics to Venice. They proclaimed him the Patron Saint of the city at the expense of San Teodoro, who had been the patron of Venice until that time. Dating from the Byzantine era, the basilica was subject to numerous Gothic and sixteenth-century interventions. The Tesoro di San Marco is preserved inside the basilica and, despite being the victim of thefts, looting and fires over the course of time, it remains an incredible collection of hundreds of works of inestimable artistic and economic value, collected over the centuries by Venetian nobles, merchants and warriors.
The Church of San Zaccaria is located immediately behind the Hotel Londra Palace. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that its perfect Renaissance style facade is matched with a perfect Gothic style interior. Dating from the 15th century, it was originally part of a monastery of Benedictine nuns. It is here that the solemn procession for displaying the “Zoia“, the Doge’s famous ceremonial headdress, is celebrated every year. Inside you can discover works by Bellini, Andrea del Castagno, Francesco da Faenza, Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna.
Its outline is one of the subjects most photographed from the hotel’s 100 windows overlooking the lagoon. The Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore is located on the island of the same name, opposite our hotel. It is part of a monumental complex built in part by Andrea Palladio and it includes the Benedictine monastery (dating from 982 AD) which is now the site of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. Inside you can admire works by numerous artists, including Tintoretto, Jacopo Palma the Younger, Sebastiano Ricci and Carpaccio. Of particular note is his magnificent painting of St. George slaying the dragon. One of the most important events which happened in Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore was the election of Pope Pius VII in 1799. The bell tower of this church offers a bird’s eye view of Venice and the lagoon which competes with that of San Marco.
The Basilica del Santissimo Redentore is also by the hand of Andrea Palladio. Indeed, this is one of his greatest pieces of religious architecture. It was erected in a prominent position in the San Marco Basin to celebrate the end of the terrible plague of 1574 which had carried off more than a third of the Venetians (and among them Titian). Here, every third Sunday in July, the Festa del Redentore takes place, one of the loveliest and most cherished of the city’s festivals. The major works in the basilica include paintings by Pietro Vecchia, Jacopo Tintoretto and Jacopo Palma il Giovane but of particular note is the beautiful altarpiece with the Baptism of Christ by Paolo Veronese.
As well as that of the Redeemer, the other tradition much cherished by the Venetians is that of the Festa della Salute . This is celebrated to commemorate the end of the disastrous plague epidemic of 1630 (the origin of the black colour of today’s gondolas also dates from this unhappy time). The Basilica della Salute was built by the architect Baldassarre Longhena under commission from the Senate of the Serenissima as a tribute to the Madonna shortly after the plague. It is an example of Venetian baroque architecture, distinguished by the characteristic octagonal plan and the imposing marble structure, with its dozens of statues, and its extremely high dome (which can be admired from our terraces). Inside, there are works by Tintoretto and Titian and statues by Josse de Corte. Its history is full of legends and mysteries.
Built by the Dominican friars between 1246 and 1430, the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo is a wonderful example of Venetian Gothic. It was one of the most important basilicas of the Serenissima: for centuries, doges and nobles sought to be buried within its walls. Today, visitors to the basilica can admire the imposing funerary monuments produced in various eras, some of which even have life-sized equestrian statues. The main ones include those of the Doges Pietro Mocenigo, Andrea Vendramin, Tullio Lombardo and Marco Corner. In addition, there are some paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Paolo Veronese and Lorenzo Lotto which are definitely worth a visit.