Church of Santa Maria della Visitazione, Renaissance polychrome ceiling and frescoes

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About the project

This small Renaissance church was built by architects from Lombardy between 1494 and 1524 for a Sienese order called the Gesuati (not to be confused with the Jesuits).  They had a particular veneration for St Jerome and were dedicated to the care of the sick but the order was suppressed in 1668.  Its buildings along the Zattere were taken over by the Dominicans who commissioned Giorgio Massari to build a much larger baroque church next door, now also known as the Gesuati.  The little church of the Visitazione subsequently became a library until 1810, furnished with bookcases designed by Massari (which are now in the Accademia ch.).  It reopened as a church in 1825 before then falling into serious disrepair.

The roof and façade of the building were restored by the Magistrato delle Acque between 1992 and 1994 with the support of the Regione del Veneto.  Venice in Peril funded the conservation of the coffered ceiling which was carried out by Serafino and Marco Volpin.  It features 58 roundel paintings of patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs by the Umbrian artist Pier Paolo Agabiti with a large 2.5 metre panel at the centre showing the Visitation of Mary to St Elizabeth.  The Australian Committee financed the conservation of the painting of the Pentecost by Padovani above the altar and both committees contributed to conservation treatment of the frescoes of the Evangelists in the four pendentives below the cupola. Venice in Peril also funded the conservation of the frieze, stone work and repair to the high arch over the altar.  It reopened in 1995.


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In brief

  • The main element of  this project was the conservation of the church’s coffered ceiling with its richly detailed and  colourful portraits of 58 patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs.  A central panel shows the scene of the  Visitation.  The artist was Pier Paolo Agabiti (c1470-1540) an artist from Sassoferrato whose work shows the influence of Alvise Vivarini, Luca Signorelli and Carlo Crivelli.
  • The conservation of the ceiling and fresco pendentives with other work was undertaken with the Australian Committee between 1993 and 1995 after structural work had been completed by the Venetian authorities.
  • The church now belongs to the Centro Culturale Don Orione and hosts occasional concerts there as part of its cultural programme.  The ceiling underwent further conservation treatment in 2015. https://www.donorione   

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