The Church dei Santi Apostoli di Cristo is one of the oldest churches in the city and has undergone numerous changes since its foundation. The present building is the result of a major reconstruction project which was undertaken in 1575. The church is notable particularly for the Cornaro Chapel.
The church is notable particularly for the Cornaro Chapel, an important example of Early Renaissance architecture, added by Mauro Codussi. The chapel is the burial place of several members of the powerful Cornaro family, including Catherine Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus. The church houses several works of art including pieces by Giambattista Tiepolo and Paolo Veronese.
In the 7th century Venice was not yet a city, but a collection of small communities scattered throughout the lagoon. San Magno, the Bishop of Oderzo, came to the lagoon and founded eight churches. According to a legend recounted by the historian Flaminio Cornaro, San Magno had a vision of the Twelve Apostles who commanded him to build a church on a site where he saw twelve cranes. This location, eventually to be in the sestiere of Cannaregio, became the site of the church of San Apostoli. The church presently stands on the Campo dei Santi Apostoli at the beginning of the Strada Nuova (New Road).
During the 1490s the Cappella Cornaro, built as a burial place for the wealthy Venetian Cornaro family, was added to the church. It is considered one of the most important Early Renaissance chapels in Venice. It is unknown exactly who designed the chapel, although it is most often attributed to the architect Mauro Codussi. At the same time a porch was added to the front of the church and a sacristy was built. These alterations were also overseen by Codussi.
In the middle of the 16th century the church briefly housed the Catecumeni, a Venetian fraternity for those wishing to convert to Christianity, before they established a permanent home at San Gregorio in 1571. Shortly after this, in 1575, the church was completely rebuilt. Only parts of the earlier structure were retained, including some frescos and the Corner Chapel.
During the early 18th century Andrea Tirali added detailing, including the onion dome, to the campanile which itself had been a late 17th century addition.
The chapel is the burial place of several members of the Cornaro family, including Giorgio Cornaro and his sister Catherine Cornaro, the Queen of Cyprus. The charitable organisation Save Venice funded the restoration of the chapel, including the relief carvings.
The church contains a number of paintings, including:
- Giambattista Tiepolo, Last Communion of St. Lucy, 1747–48
- Paolo Veronese, Gathering of Manna, 1580–85.
- Giovanni Contarini, Birth of the Virgin, 1599
- Cesare da Conegliano, Last Supper, 1583
- Fabio Canal, Communion of the Apostles and the Triumph of the Eucharist, 7th century.
- Sebastiano Santi, Christ between the Apostles, 1828