A showstopper of a church, Santa Maria del Giglio (known locally as Santa Maria Zobenigo after the Venetian family who founded the original chapel) has one of the most ornate baroque facades in Venice. The church also houses works by Peter Paul Rubens and Tintoretto and boasts an ornate, cherub-covered baptistery.
Founded in the 9th century, Santa Maria del Giglio (Saint Mary of the Lily) was rebuilt in the 17th century by Italian architect Giuseppe Sardi for Antonio Barbaro, a renowned military leader and scion of a wealthy Venetian dynasty. The sumptuous marble facade is unusual in that it includes largely secular imagery. The interior contains Tintoretto’s The Evangelists and, in the Molin chapel, Rubens’ Virgin and Child with the Young St. John, the only painting by the Flemish master in Venice.
Santa Maria del Giglio is a stop on some private walking tours of the San Marco neighborhood, which may also include nearby highlights such as St. Mark's Basilica (Basilica San Marco), the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), and the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto). You can easily pair a visit to the church, set just off the Grand Canal, with a gondola ride and serenade.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Venice is largely a walking town, so it’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes and a sun hat.
- With a short flight of steps at the entrance, Santa Maria del Giglio is inaccessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
- If you plan to visit the church’s interior, choose modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
How to Get There
The Chiesa di Santa Maria del Giglio is located at Campo Santa Maria del Giglio in the San Marco neighborhood, just a short walk from Piazza San Marco. It’s also possible to reach via vaporetto (water bus); take line 1 to the Santa Maria del Giglio stop along the Grand Canal.
When to Get There
Venice is one of the most crowded tourist destinations in Italy, especially in summer. Visit in late fall or early spring to enjoy the city with fewer crowds. As the church isn’t one of the city’s blockbuster sights, it’s a good choice during the busiest part of the day.
A Worldly Facade
The unusually secular facade of this church features prominent statues of the Barbaro family, who financed the church’s 17th-century rebuilding. Also depicted are maps of the regions where Antonio Barbaro served on his military campaigns, battle scenes, and the family coat of arms. Flemish sculptor Josse Le Court, who also worked on Venice’s Santa Maria della Salute church, contributed figures of the Four Virtues.