San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, 1972-80

San Nicolo dei Mendicoli is another church on the outskirts of Venice. Professor Francesco Valcanover, the Superintendent of Galleries in Venice, pointed Venice in Peril in the direction of this important and neglected building. It is one of the oldest churches in Venice, a rare example of Veneto-Byzantine architecture. The church was reroofed, the entire floor had to be taken up and altars moved to envelop the lower part of the church in a waterproof membrane, a damp-proofing method invented by a New Zealand architectural restorer employed by the Fund. The lower parts of the brickwork of the church and campanile were rebuilt with a damp-course. All the paintings were cleaned and all the wooden statues and decorations cleaned and de-infested. New heating and lighting were installed and the 18th-century organ was removed to the country for restoration by Italian experts before reinstallation in the 16th-century choir loft. Many exciting discoveries were made during the restoration. The polychrome wooden statue of St Nicholas has been dated to 1457 and is now known to be from the Bon workshop. This and the crucifix are masterpieces of Venetian carved wood sculpture previously unrecognised by art historians and public alike.

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