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Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta - I Gesuiti

Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta (I Gesuiti) Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta (I Gesuiti)

The Church of di Santa Maria Assunta, known as I Gesuiti, is a church in Venice, in the sestiere of Cannaregio, in Campo dei Gesuiti, not far from the Fondamenta Nuove. It is named by the religious order of the Society of Jesus, commonly known by the term of the Gesuiti (Jesuits).


According to some sources the construction of the church was financed by a certain Pietro or, according to Doge Andrea Dandolo, by Cleto Gussoni in 1148 and was surrounded by grounds, bodies of water and wetlands. In 1154 Cleto turned it into a hospital for the poor who were ill, both men and women. Another Gussoni, by the name of Buonavere, relative and heir of Cleto, ultimately provided vineyards and some of his other estates in the districts of Chioggia and Pellestrina. In the monastery of I Gesuiti a member of the same family, Marco Gussoni, took his vows, miraculously cured by the then Blessed, later Saint Luigi Gonzaga. It is said that in 1601 Marco, struck down by a grave illness, was healed instantly on the invocation by the saint. However, on 1 August 1631 he contracted the plague and died in Ferrara whilst working to help the plague victims there; he became known as "uomo di somma pietà" (man of supreme mercy). A portrait of him entitled Marco Gussoni blessing the plague victims at the Lazzaretto of Ferrara is exhibited in Ca' Rezzonico.

Saint Ignazio di Loyola visited the city of Venice for the first time in 1523 to embark on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He returned to I Gesuiti in 1535 with a group of friends, who already called themselves the Society of Jesus (members of which are referred to as Jesuits - Gesuiti in Italian), and here they were ordained as priests. It took just two years for the group to fully establish themselves in the lagoon of Venice and to gain a large following. They left for Rome in 1537.

In 1606, due to the quarrels between Pope Paul V and Venice, the city was placed under interdiction, and as a consequence, the Jesuits were exiled until 1657. During these years, Venice was involved in a consuming war with the Ottoman empire and Pope Alexander VIII decided to provide the services of the Betlemitani, an order created to assist the Knights of the Cross who were under the control of this pope.

Venice then sold the whole estate to the Jesuits, including a church, a hospital and a convent, for fifty-thousand ducats. However, the Betlemitani church was not large enough for the Jesuits. So in 1715 they knocked it down and built their own temple. The church was given the name of Santa Maria Assunta (Mary after Assumption). It was financed by the Manin family; an aristocratic Friulan family from 1651. The church was consecrated in 1728.

The Building

The Jesuits in Venice determined that Domenico Rossi, who designed the Church of San Stae, was the ideal architect to do the work they needed. It was not an easy task for him as he had to follow strict plans, which were defined for the Jesuits by the Council of Trent.

The facade is in two tiers: the lower of which is formed around eight columns, on which rests the rough and cracked architrave of the second tier. The columns support eight statues, which, along with four others in various niches, represent the "twelve apostles". Four other statues on the sides of the main entrance represent Saint James the Greater, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Matthew the Evangelist. Among the sculptors is Filippo Catasio and Giuseppe Ziminiani. Lining the Tympanum are statues by Giuseppe Torretti, forming his work L'Assunzione della Vergine Maria (The Assumption of the Virgin Mary). In recent times some work of Francesco Bonazza has been lost. A green and white marble banner, positioned in front of the central window.

The layout of the church is typical of Jesuit churches, in the form of a Latin cross with three chapels in the longest wing. The transept and chancel are alongside two other chapels. The six chapels on the sides of the nave are separated by small rooms which were probably once used for confession. Between the second and third chapels stands the remarkable pulpit created by Francesco Bonazza and along the entire corridor there are "corretti", grates that visitors to the convent could look through. The nave of the church pales in comparison to the altar, which is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, due to the presence of four pillars which support the cross vault. These pillars were decorated with green and white marble between 1725 and 1731.

The ceiling is adorned with frescoes. In the chancel, Angel musicians in Glory (1720), and on the vaulted ceiling The Triumph of the Name of Jesus (1732), were painted by Ludovico Dorigny. On the ceiling of the nave, Abraham and Three Angels and Vision of St John Evangelist were painted by Francesco Fontebasso in 1734. The chancel is decorated with statues of cherubs, little angels, angels and archangels by Giuseppe Torretti. Around the altar, designed by the Jesuit father Giuseppe Pozzo, ten columns support a green and white dome. A chapel in the church has the monument to Doge Cicogna by Campagna.

The campanile is almost entirely the original that was erected for the church of the Betlemitani, the only addition is the belfry from the eighteenth century.

Art Works


  • Martirio di San Lorenzo, 1557.

Jacopo Tintoretto

  • Assunzione di Maria, 1555.

Jacopo Sansovino

  • Funereal Monument of Da Lezze Family (second half of 16th century).

Jacopo Palma il Giovane

  • The sacristy is home to twenty paintings by Jacopo Palma il Giovane. Among these is the Martyrdom of St John the Baptist, St Lanfranco, and St Liberio (1610), which at one time was placed in the chapel of the Arte dei Varoteri (the guild of furriers of Venice)

Map of I Gesuiti Church

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