Hidden treasures

The Dominicans Library in the Santi Giovanni e Paolo Convent in Venice

Unknown places & works
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The Dominicans Library in the Santi Giovanni e Paolo Convent in Venice

The hospital of Venice is really a complex of singular buildings. Once  there was the Scuola Grande of St Mark's  and the Dominicans convent. After the Napoleonic suppression a considerable part of these institutions was partially lost, but something still remains...

On the first floor of the hospital, on a long corridor where there were the monks' cells, there is the door of the Convent Library. It was rebuilt in its present form at the end of 1600s by the famous architect Baldassarre Longhena, to house the rich collection of manuscripts and illuminated manuscripts that the Dominican friars consulted for their theological studies.

The walls were decorated with the book cabinets and interspersed with carved statues representing the greatest heretics of the time (for example, Martin Luther or Calvin), chained and screaming. On the ceiling there are portraits of the greatest Dominicans thinkers and theologians and, in the centre, there are three paintings by Federico Cervelli, representing Wisdom, Prudence and Fear. This decorative complex symbolized the mission of the Dominicans: the fight of heresy for the triumph of the Catholic faith.

When the convent was passed to the State to become the Civil Hospital of Venice headquarters, it suffered heavy losses:  cupboards disappeared (books fortunately went to the library of the Patriarchal Seminary, where they are now) and in their place windows were opened, while the fantastic statues (sculpted by Giuseppe Torretti) were sold in England and no further information is known about them...

Exceptionally, during the spring days of the FAI (21 and 22 March), the Dominicans' complex and its splendid library will be open to the public! If you want to visit these extraordinary buildings with Francesca, send us your request right away! Our brilliant guide will share other curious anecdotes about these fascinating buildings!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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