I’ve visited many amazing places in my life, but few are as breathtaking as Venice, Italy. The city is filled with beautiful cathedrals and churches, each more stunning than the last. Here are some of the most beautiful ones you need to see on your next trip to Venice. Trust me; they’re worth it.
Table of Contents
- Basilica of San Marco – St Mark’s Basilica
- San Giorgio Maggiore
- Santa Maria del Giglio
- Santi Giovanni e Paolo (San Zanipolo)
- Santa Maria Formosa
- San Zaccaria
- Santa Maria dei Miracoli
- Church of Madonna dell’Orto
- Santa Maria della Salute
- San Trovaso
- Il Redentore
- Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
- Torcello Cathedral
- Chiesa di San Salvatore
- San Michele in Isola
Famous Churches of Venice Italy
Basilica of San Marco – St Mark’s Basilica
The Basilica of San Marco is the most famous church in Venice, Italy, and one of the most beautiful churches in the world. It was built in the Byzantine style, and its unique architecture continues to bring thousands of tourists to St. Mark’s Square each year. It was our top choice for things to do in Venice, and we stand by that.
The exterior is an impressive display of marble, mosaics, and statues, while the interior contains gold-ground mosaics depicting saints, prophets, and biblical scenes.
Some golden mosaics derive from traditional Byzantine representations and are masterworks of Medieval art; others are based on preparatory drawings made by prominent Renaissance artists from Venice and Florence, including Paolo Veronese, Tintoretto, Titian, Paolo Uccello, and Andrea del Castagno.
The basilica was originally built to house the remains of St. Mark the Apostle, whose remains were stolen from Alexandria by the Venetians. During this time, St Mark’s Basilica would serve as a political and religious center of the Republic of Venice and the personal chapel of the Doge.
It became the official cathedral of Venice in 1807. Today, it serves as a museum and a central tourist hub.
Perhaps part of the allure is that St. Mark’s Basilica holds more history than any other building in Venice. After all, it’s one of the oldest buildings in Venice.
San Giorgio Maggiore
Architectural Styles: Renaissance & Italian Baroque
Address: Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, 30133 Venezia VE, Italy
Hours: Every day, 7 AM – 6 PM
Phone: +39 041 522 7827
San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the most influential and beautiful churches in Venice. Famed Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio designed it in the late 16th century before his death in 1580. The church was built between 1566 and 1610 – making it one of the oldest Venice cathedrals.
The church stands atop a small island and is connected to Venice by boat. The church’s exterior is simple and unadorned but is crafted from brilliant white marble that reflects beautifully off the blue lagoon beneath it. With two bell towers and a tall dome, San Giorgio Maggiore can be seen from every part of the Riva Degli Schiavoni.
The church’s interior features an impressive display of religious artwork, including two large paintings by Tintoretto: The Last Supper and The Jews in the Desert. The floor is made of colorful marble, and visitors can marvel at the elaborate frescoes on the walls and ceiling.
In the Cappella dei Morti (Chapel of the Dead), you’ll find another impressive painting by Tintoretto called the Entombment of Christ. Other notable works include:
- Madonna Enthroned with Saints – Sebastiano Ricci
- Risen Christ & St Andrew with Morosini family – Jacopo & Domenico Tintoretto
- Adoration of the Shepherds – Jacopo Bassano
If you can’t make it to San Giorgio Maggiore church, you can still see it in all its splendor from the Bridge of Sighs or Doge’s Palace.
Santa Maria del Giglio
Architectural Styles: Baroque
Address: Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
Hours: Mon. – Sat., 10:30 AM – 5 PM
Phone: +39 041 275 0462
Originally known as Santa Maria del Zobenigo after the family that founded it, Santa Maria del Giglio is often overlooked by visitors simply because they don’t find it naturally. The name of the cathedral translates to St. Mary of the Lily.
It was built between 1678 and 1681, and it has a unique look due to its use of Venetian Gothic architecture combined with baroque and rococo styles.
The exterior features two tall bell towers decorated with intricately carved stone figures. The impressive interior features colorful marble walls, intricate frescoes, and a grand painted ceiling. There is also an 18th-century pipe organ located on the balcony.
Many of the sculptures and paintings in Santa Maria del Giglio were done by Venetian artists such as Francesco Zugno, Gianbattista Crosato, Gaspare Diziani, and Jacopo Marieschi. Visitors can spend hours admiring the artwork and taking in the beauty of this gem.
Santi Giovanni e Paolo (San Zanipolo)
Architectural Styles: Gothic & Byzantine
Address: Campo S.S. Giovanni e Paolo, 6363, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
Hours: Every day, 9 AM – 6 PM
Phone: +39 041 523 5913
Santi Giovanni e Paolo (San Zanipolo) is located in the Castello sestiere and is one of the largest churches in Venice, It’s most notable for being the official burial place of 25 doges.
It was built in 1236 as a Dominican convent and features both Gothic and Byzantine architectural styles.
The exterior is made from red brick with ornamental terracotta, green marble, and white Istrian stone decorations. Inside are dozens of impressive frescoes and paintings, including a depiction of The Adoration of the Shepherds by Paolo Veronese.
The church’s interior also features five large sculptures by Alessandro Vittoria (1525–1608) – depicting four Evangelists and St Jerome. The tomb of Doge Francesco Foscari is located in the right aisle, and an impressive 15th-century wooden crucifix hangs above the altar.
San Zanipolo is a must-see for any visitor to Venice – not just for its beauty but also for its rich history and art.
Notable Artworks in Santi Giovanni e Paolo
- Saint Vincent Ferrer Altarpiece – Giovanni Bellini
- Madonna del Rosario – Lorenzo Gramiccia
- The Assumption – Veronese
- The Annunciation – Veronese
- The Adoration of the Magi – Veronese
- St. Michael Vanquishing the Devil – Bonifacio de’ Pitati
- Three Saints – Bartolomeo Vivarini
Santa Maria Formosa
Architectural Styles: Renaissance
Address: Calle Seconda de la Fava, 5263, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
Hours: Mon. – Sat., 10 AM – 5 PM
Phone: +39 041 523 4645
Santa Maria Formosa lives up to it’s name (‘formosa’ translates to beautiful). It is an elegant, mostly unadorned Catholic church located in the Castello sestiere.
It was initially built in 790 as an oratory but later became a full-fledged church in 982. It has undergone many changes throughout its history, with the last renovation taking place in 1688 after the dome of the church collapsed during an earthquake.
The exterior is made of pink Istrian stone and features a large bell tower that is more ornate than the church. Inside are colorful frescoes like Approval of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity by Baldassare d’Anna and St. Barbara Polyptych by Palma the Elder.
Santa Maria Formosa is a wonderful example of Renaissance-style architecture and is a beautiful church if you enjoy more subdued techniques.
San Zaccaria is a large Catholic church located in the Castello sestiere. It was originally built in the late 8th century as a monastic church but has endured several restorations and renovations throughout its history. The current building is a combination of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles.
The exterior is a simple facade and features six marble sculptures of various religious figures, with the topmost sculpture visible from across the city.
Inside are impressive frescoes, marble sculptures, and the San Zaccaria Altarpiece, designed by Bellini and considered one of his masterworks.
Bellini isn’t the only famous master to have contributed to San Zaccaria. This beautifully proportioned church hosts paintings by Andrea del Castagno, Palma Vecchio, Tintoretto, Giuseppe Porta, Palma il Giovane, Antonio Vassilacchi, Anthony van Dyck, Andrea Celesti, Antonio Zanchi, Antonio Balestra, Angelo Trevisani, and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo.
Artist Alessandro Vittoria’s final resting place is in the church, where a self-portrait bust on his tomb pays homage to his life and work.
While not as famous as some of the others on the list, San Zaccaria is an impressive example of both Gothic and Renaissance architecture and contains some of the finest artworks in the city. For that reason, it’s one of the best churches in Venice.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Located in the Cannaregio sestiere, Santa Maria dei Miracoli is one of the most picturesque churches in Venice. It was built between 1481 and 1489 by Pietro Lombardo, a famous architect of the Renaissance period. The church was constructed to house a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary.
Today, it is considered one of Lombardo’s most beautiful works, with its standout feature being its white marble facade that gleams against the background of Venice’s red buildings.
While the church is considered small compared to the others on the list, the walls are decorated with stunning frescoes, gilded wood, and marble by some of the Renaissance’s premier talents.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli features statues by Tullio Lombardo, Alessandro Vittoria, and Niccolò di Pietro.
The ceiling is divided into fifty sections, each decorated with a painting of a prophet by Vincenzo dalle Destre and Lattanzio da Rimini.
Church of Madonna dell’Orto
The Church of Madonna dell’Orto is a stunning example of Gothic architecture in the Cannaregio sestiere. It was built in the early 14th century and is dedicated to Madonna dell’Orto, a miraculous Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary that resides inside the church.
The facade features two levels with a rose window at the top, flanked by two statues of St. Christopher and St. Sebastian.
The interior is no less impressive with its gothic arches and stained glass windows, as well as two masterpieces by Tintoretto: Idolatry of Golden Calf and the Last Judgement.
Perhaps most notably, Madonna dell’Orto holds the remains of Jacopo Tintoretto, whom many consider to be amongst the most outstanding Venetian artists to ever live. Tintoretto lived close to the church, and he frequented it regularly, so it was only appropriate that he chose to be buried here.
Some other notable artworks include:
- Sculpture of Madonna with Child – Antonio Rizzo
- St John Baptist with Saints Peter, Mark, Jerome, and Paul Altarpiece – Cima da Conegliano
- Martrydom of St Lorenzo – Daniel van den Dyck.
- Presentation of Virgin at Temple – Tintoretto
- St George and the Dragon – Matteo Ponzone
- The Miracle of Saint Agnes – Tintoretto
- The Nativity and Saint Dominic – Domenico Tintoretto
- Angels Bearing Incense – Domenico Tintoretto
Madonna dell’Orto is one of Venice’s most impressive churches and also one of its lesser visited. If you’re heading to Cannaregio, you should visit Madonna dell’Orto.
Santa Maria della Salute
Santa Maria della Salute is one of the most recognizable churches in Venice and was featured on our list of the top 10 things to see in Venice.
Situated on a small island at the entrance to the Grand Canal, Santa Maria della Salute is an impressive example of 17th-century Baroque architecture.
The church was designed by architect Baldassare Longhena and built between 1631 – 1687 as a thank-you from the Venetian people for sparing them from a plague outbreak that same year.
The church’s exterior is adorned with statues by Gianbattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, while the interior contains works by Pietro Liberi, Antonio Zanchi, Jacopo Guarana, and Giambattista Crosato.
The most impressive element of Santa Maria della Salute is its magnificent dome that dominates the skyline and is visible from many parts of the city.
Visitors to Santa Maria della Salute can also take in views of the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco, and Riva degli Schiavoni.
If possible, do yourself a favor and watch the sunset around the Santa Maria della Salute. It is a beautiful memory that stays with me, and therefore I added it to our Venice in a day itinerary.
Located in the Dorsoduro sestiere, San Trovaso is a quiet Roman Catholic church located outside of the main tourist areas. It sits along the canal and a boatyard that shares the same name.
San Trovaso is dedicated to Saints Gervasius and Protasius, the patron saints of Milan.
It was built in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 16th century. The facade features several Renaissance-style elements, with two statues of Saints Gervasius and Protasius at the top.
It is unique for having two identical front entrances. The two doors were built to placate local Nicolotti and Castellani faction loyalists. They refused to enter through the same door, so two were built instead to keep the peace so that neither would feel upstaged by the other.
Once inside, the interior is surprisingly ornate for such a small church. It is decorated in marble with magnificent paintings such as Palma il Giovane’s Madonna and Child in Glory and Adoration of the Magi and Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple by Domenico Tintoretto.
Although out of the way and a bit undersized compared to other churches on our list, San Trovaso is worthy of making it onto your itinerary.
Architectural Style: Renaissance & Palladian
Address: Redentore, Sestiere Giudecca, 30133 Venezia VE, Italy
Phone: +39 041 275 0462
The Church of Il Redentore is another 16th-century masterpiece by famed architect Andrea Palladio, the man behind San Giorgio Maggiore.
Located on the island of Giudecca, just south of Venice’s main island, this Venetian cathedral was built to commemorate the end of a devastating plague epidemic in 1575-6.
Il Redentore is an impressive example of Palladian architecture, with its grand Neoclassical facade featuring six Ionic columns, two large bells at either side and a massive dome at the center.
Inside, the church is constructed with white stucco and gray stone that is enhanced with paintings by Francesco Bassano, Lazzaro Bastiani, Carlo Saraceni, Palma the Younger, Jacopo Bassano, and other influential artists.
Every July, Venice holds the Redentore festival to commemorate the end of the plague. Fireworks are set off from Giudecca, and a bridge is built across the Grand Canal for locals to cross and visit the church.
Make sure you take advantage of this fantastic event if you happen to be in Venice!
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
The grand Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is a Franciscan church in San Polo, the centermost part of Venice’s main island. It is one of the largest churches in the city and features an impressive facade constructed from Istrian stone.
The interior holds many impressive works of art, including Donatello’s St. John the Baptist, Bernardino Licinio’s Madonna with Franciscan Saints, and Palma il Giovane’s Martyrdom of St. Catherine from Alexandria.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari also houses the tombs of many influential Venetian figures, including Antonio Canova, Titian, and four Doges of the Venetian Republic (Niccolò Tron, Giovanni Pesaro, Francesco Foscari, Francesco Dandolo).
It is also known for its excellent acoustics, which makes it a popular spot for musical concerts during the summer months.
We love the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari so much that it made it onto our must see in Venice list.
Architectural Style: Byzantine
Address: Via isola di, Campiello Lazzari, 30142 campello VE, Italy
Phone: +39 041 730084
The ancient Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is one of the oldest churches in Venice. It was built in 639 AD on the island of Torcello and has undergone several renovations since then.
The facade is relatively plain compared to other Venetian churches, but it makes up for it with its impressive interior. Inside you will find a beautiful Byzantine-style mosaic floor that covers almost the entire church and is decorated with animal figures and geometric shapes.
Did you know only 12 people live on Torcello Island? Click here to read about the Top Things to Do in Torcello.
This stunning work of art was created by Venetian master craftsmen in the 11th or 12th century and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving mosaics on the planet.
While the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta holds several beautiful works of art, including a version of the Last Judgement, it might be best known for the skull of Saint Cecilia which is kept as a relic here.
The Torcello Cathedral is a fantastic place to visit if you want to take a step back in time to the ancient world of Venice.
Chiesa di San Salvatore
The Chiesa di San Salvatore (of the Holy Savior) is a beautiful church in the Campo dei Frari district of Venice. It was first consecrated in 1177 by Pope Alexander III, but the iteration we are familiar with was constructed in 1508 by Giorgio Spavento.
The exterior is constructed from brick, with large arched and square windows decorated with Venetian terra cotta.
While the exterior is beautiful, the highlight is the interior and the various works of art found within.
Titian contributed two of his more famous pieces, the Transfiguration of Christ altarpiece and Annunciation.
Meanwhile, Jacopo Sansovino designed the elaborate tomb of Doge Francesco Venier, located on the south wall.
Two other Doges (Gerolamo Priuli and Lorenzo Priuli) and the last Queen of the Kingdom of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro, are buried here.
Chiesa di San Salvatore is an inspiring place to visit, and it’s worth checking out if you are in the area.
San Michele in Isola
Architectural Style: Renaissance
Address: San Michele, 30121, VE, Italy
The tranquil island of San Michele is the final stop on our list of Venice cathedrals. This small Roman Catholic church was originally built in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 15th century as a dedication to Saint Michael the Archangel.
Mauro Codussi, the architect behind San Zaccaria, San Giovanni Crisostomo, and Santa Maria Formosa, was commissioned to redesign the church after it burned down in 1453. His remodeled version of San Michele opened its doors in 1469.
Codussi is remembered in Venetian history for his contributions to the city’s classical architectural style during the early renaissance, eventually replacing the once-popular Gothic architecture.
An unusual and innovative choice at that time, the building is constructed with Istrian stone, which has since turned a pale gray from weathering. Nevertheless, it remains an impressive sight.
As with several parts of Venice, the church is currently undergoing conservation work to repair the structure. You can learn more by visiting Save Venice.
How Many Cathedrals Are There in Venice?
There are around 200 churches and cathedrals in Venice, but the most spectacular ones are found on the main island. Some of these include the Basilica di San Marco, which is the city’s most important religious site; Santa Maria della Salute and the Chiesa dei Gesuati, which are both beautiful churches; the Chiesa di Santa Fosca and the Chiesa del Redentore, which are both stunning examples of classic Venetian architecture; and the Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo, which is a magnificent Gothic structure.
What Is the Most Famous Church in Venice?
The most famous church in Venice is, without a doubt, the Basilica di San Marco. Not only is it one of the oldest churches in the city, but it’s also the most important religious site in Venice. The church’s interior is full of stunning works of art, including the Pala d’Oro and the four bronze horses that sit above its main entrance.
What is the Main Cathedral in Venice, Italy?
The main cathedral in Venice is the Basilica di San Marco, located on the Piazza San Marco. It’s one of the most stunning churches in the city and is filled with incredible artwork, making it a must-see spot when visiting Venice. The church was built between 832 and 836 and is the resting place of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.
What Is the Oldest Church in Venice?
The oldest church in Venice is the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, which was built in the 13th century. The church is filled with incredible artwork, including works by Titian and Bellini. It also houses the beautiful tomb of Doge Andrea Dandolo, the city’s longest-serving ruler.
What Is the Largest Church in Venice?
The largest church in Venice is the Basilica di San Marco, which covers more than 11,000 square meters. It is an impressive structure and one of the most popular attractions in the city. The Basilica di San Marco is also home to some of the city’s most exquisite mosaics and sculptures.
Are Churches Free in Venice?
Most churches in Venice are free to visit, although some may require a fee. The Basilica di San Marco, for example, requires a small fee to enter if you wish to explore St. Mark’s Museum, the Golden Altar, and the Treasury. However, most churches in Venice are free to explore and make great places to spend an afternoon.
Is St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice Free?
Yes, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice is free to enter and explore. The basilica is open from 9:45 am-5 pm Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays, it is open from 2 pm-5 pm. The only place in the basilica that requires a fee to enter is St. Mark’s Museum, which costs €3 per person.
Can You Wear Shorts in Venice Churches?
No, shorts are not allowed in churches in Venice. Most churches require visitors to be dressed appropriately, which means no beachwear, shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless shirts.
If you’re looking to explore all of these beautiful and fascinating churches, look into purchasing a water bus pass for your stay. It makes it extremely easy to navigate the city. Click here to read our guide on using the Venetian Water Taxi and Vaporetto.
If you find yourself in Venice, set aside some time to explore these incredible cathedrals and churches. Each one is more beautiful than the last, offering a unique glimpse into Venetian history and culture. Soak up the atmosphere, take some photos, and enjoy your time in one of the most fascinating cities in the world. And if you have a favorite that we didn’t mention, let us know! We’re always looking for new places to explore.