San Francesco della Vigna's church is located in the homonymous Campo of San Francesco della Vigna in the Sestiere of Castello. In 1554 the building extension was designed and supervised by Jacopo Sansovino, it was finished in 1554. Between 1564-1570, Andrea Palladio completed the church with a majestic façade, realizing one of the most beautiful Renaissance pieces in the city.  

After the unfortunate debut of San Pietro of Castello, it was probably Daniele Barbaro who favoured the commission to Palladio, convincing the Patriarch, Giovanni Grimani, to entrust the architect with the task of building the façade of San Francesco della Vigna. This was a bold choice, as it resulted in the subsequent dismissal of Iacopo Sansovino who had built the church thirty years before (and also presented a design for the façade). Palladio became an effective alternative supported by the culturally more advanced Venetian nobility to the now ageing protagonist of the architectural renovations of St. Mark's square. Giovanni Grimani was a man with sophisticated taste, and a refined collector of Roman antiquities, in 1563 he suffered an insidious trial for heresy, but  was acquitted, he therefore transformed the construction of the façade of San Francesco della Vigna into a private self-celebration.

From Leon Battista Alberti onwards, architects of the Renaissance were committed to the difficult task of adapting the front of a single room building, like an ancient temple, to the multiple aisles plan of Christian churches. The façade of San Francesco della Vigna is Palladio's first practical solution to the problem, after his unsuccessful but essentially only projectual engagement with San Pietro of Castello.

The façade of San Francesco della Vigna's church actually consists of two coplanar architectonic orders: the nave is covered by a pediment, and the aisles are covered by half-pediments, Palladio attained an aesthetical correlation linking them with a single high basement. This same solution is later applied, in a more mature expression, to the churches of San Giorgio and Redentore. The solution of the portal is unusual, surmounted by insertion of a window inspired by Roman thermae designs. The inside setting is very expressive; small niches in the façade contain large bronze statues of Moses and Saint Paul, made in 1592 by Tiziano Aspetti, in execution of Patriarch Grimani's testamentary dispositions, to whom the four inscriptions of hermeneutic significance should probably also be accredited.  

On the façade the following inscriptions can be found. At the top of the tympanum, an eagle with the word  Renovabitur. Immediately below, at the base of the pediment, the dedication of the church:  Deo utriusque templi aedificatori ac reparatori  is engraved. In the four plates we see the following sentences:  Ac cede ad hoc / ne deseras spirituale / non sine iugi exteriori / interiorique bello . The spiritual message sculpted in the façade could therefore be translated as:  'To God, builder of this and the other temple. Enter this temple /do not abandon the realities of the spirit /not without the effort of detaching yourself from the burden of external things /and an internal fight. Only then will the Lord renew your life'.

 

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Biblioteca San Francesco della Vigna

Biblioteca San Francesco della Vigna

The Convent library, whose origin date back to the XIII century, after several hardships is now a provincial library and support the Institute of Ecumenic Studies. The Library has a vast book holdings consisting of an old archive made up of about 30.000 books and a modern one made up of about 80.000. In addition, the library has the magazine section counting 665 newpapers (363 current, 302 stopped).