Hidden treasures

The San Zan Degolà Church in Venice

Unknown places & works
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The San Zan Degolà Church in Venice

The ancient San Zan Degolà church (i.e. San Giovanni Decollato, in Venetian dialect) is located in a quiet corner of Venice, away from the flow of tourists.

The building is a rare example of Venetian-Byzantine architecture that has been preserved in its original conception to the present day. Only the facade and the chunky bell tower have different shapes, having been rebuilt in the 18th century (the original tower was located roughly in the centre of the square). The interior is very simple, with an overturned ship's hull roofing. The three naves are divided by two rows of four precious Greek marble columns with Byzantine capitals (XI century). Also the remains of the recently discovered frescoes, depicting the heads of four saints (John, Peter, Thomas and Marco) and St. Elena Empress who carries the cross on a background of architecture (XI century), are believed to be the oldest in Venice and of great value.

In order to visit it, you have to 'participate' in a mass of the Russian Orthodox community, to which it has been entrusted, (just turn up on a Sunday morning and be discreet!!!)

The Church is also linked to a dismal history: it is said that inside, on 21st November 1500, the priest who was officiating at San Zan Degolà, priest Francis, exterminated an entire family. The man was sentenced to death soon after on the 19th December: first his right hand was cut off in front of the killed family's home and then he was executed in St Mark's Square. The reasons for the terrible deed have never been discovered.

To discover other unusual places in Venice, mysteries and fascinating anecdotes about the history of this city, it is possible to agree with Francesca – our brilliant guide who is in charge of this column - a customized itinerary in line with your interests and your needs!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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