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San Zaccaria – a former monastery, rich in art and (too) rich in water

Paintings in San Zaccaria, Museum and Crypta San Zaccaria, Museum and Crypta Ceiling painting in San Zaccaria

Alongside the convent of San Lorenzo, the convent of San Zaccaria was the oldest and most important of the Venetian nunneries, where the wealthy Venetians kept their unmarried daughters. San Zaccaria was first mentioned in documents in the 9th century. In addition to the unusual architecture of the building – between Gothic and Renaissance – a painting by Giovanni Bellini, an early Renaissance painter, is particularly worth seeing. Many famous artists, Venetian and non-Venetian, contributed to the decoration of the church, such as Tintoretto, Giandomenico Tiepolo and Giovanni Bellini.

San Zaccaria, once one of the most important nunneries in Venice, shows the vulnerability of the lagoon city

The church’s special architecture

The church of St Zacharias consists of two adjoining buildings known as the ‘old church’ and the ‘new church’. The ‘old church’, which is located to the right of the ‘new church’, comprises the striking main chapel above the crypt, which was built and decorated between 1440 and 1445 and now bears the name of St Tarasio, the adjoining chapel known as the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, and other rooms created between 1458 and 1463 and later modified. 

The interior of the church

Through a marble portal one enters the choir room or Chapel of St Athanasius. Once an altarpiece behind the nuns’ choir of the old church, the Nativity of the Virgin by Jacopo Tintoretto stands out.

The Chapel of St. Tarasius, formerly the presbytery of the Gothic church, shows a special combination: on the one hand, a highlight of the Gothic style, which was represented in Venice, and on the other, an example of the early Renaissance style, which began in Florence.

The crypt

The only remnant of the oldest church is the crypt, which is located under the chapel of St Tarasius: It probably dates back to the beginning of the 10th century, has modest dimensions and is divided into three small naves separated by columns with simple capitals.

Today, the crypt itself is unadorned and unfurnished apart from a marble altar crowned by a sculpture of the Madonna. The simple reason for this is that the surrounding area is below mean sea level, which means that there is water in the room for most of the year. At high tide, the crypt is literally flooded. However, when the water level is lower, it is possible to enter the interior through a raised passageway. If the water level allows, you can visit the crypt.



  • Three large polyptychs, richly carved and painted, are signed and dated 1443 by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna, while the precious wooden frame, lavishly gilded and decorated with pinnacles, is the work of Ludovico da Forlì. Andrea del Castagno and Francesco da Faenza signed and dated the frescoes in the vault sails and undercroft to 1442.
  • The main attraction of the church is Giovanni Bellini’s painting Sacra Conversazione from 1505 in the left aisle. The painter used colours that still glow warmly today and have hardly lost any of their power.


Opening hours

Monday – Sunday | 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
(ticket offices, bookshop and last admission ten minutes before closing time) 



You can obtain the Chorus Pass at the ticket office of the Chiesa di Santo Stefano, the Chiesa di San Giacomo dall’Orio or the Chiesa di San Sebastiano on presentation of the Venice City Pass. The Chorus Pass is valid for the churches listed on the ticket. Keep the Chorus Pass to visit the other churches. 


Important information

  • Please dress appropriately for your visit to the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista in Bragora and cover your shoulders and knees. Sleeveless outerwear, shorts, miniskirts and hats are not permitted.



How to get there

The nearest jetties are San Marco/San Zaccaria or San Zaccaria. Lines 2, 20, 4.1, 4.2, 5.2, C, N and others stop there.



Campo S. Zaccaria, 4693, 30122 Venezia VE

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The Chorus Pass for the churches of Venice is included in your >> Venice City Pass.

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