Santa Maria del Giglio Church (Santa Maria Zobenigo)

Venice, Italy


Much of the current design for Santa Maria del Giglio, also known as Santa Maria Zobenigo after the family that founded the church in the ninth century, dates to a 1680-83 renovation by the architect Giuseppi Sardi, working under the patronage of Antonio Barbaro. Barbaro, an admiral in the Venetian navy and a member of the aristocratic Barbaro family, died in 1679, leaving a sizeable sum of 30,000 ducats for the rebuilding of the church. The building’s Baroque façade pays tribute to the generosity of its patron with a series of reliefs depicting members of the Barbaro family, and a centrally situated sculpture of the admiral himself. Justus le Court, the Flemish sculptor whose work adorns the building, also incorporated carved maps of Barbaro’s various military postings, scenes from naval battles, and allegorical figures like Honor and Virtue into his design. Religious iconography is noticeably absent from the façade. Inside, canvases by Antonio Zanchi, Tintoretto, Rubens, and a number of other Venetian masters decorate the walls and ceiling. The church is located in the Campo Santa Maria Zobenigo, west of the Piazza San Marco.

How We Helped

WMF’s extensive work on the Church of Santa Maria del Giglio began in 1969. A conservation team removed and restored paintings within the church, and repaired the building’s leaking roof, which had contributed to significant structural damage to the church and its decorative suite. To prevent further water damage to the building’s interior, the team removed the church’s floor and replaced the underlying earth with a mixture of gravel and cement. The building’s façade was cleaned, and loose elements of the marble face were repaired. Finally, WMF helped restore the church’s 17th-century organ and its sacristy.

Why It Matters

As an artistic tribute to Admiral Barbaro’s naval triumphs and his civic influence, the Church of Santa Maria del Giglio recalls Venice’s storied military and artistic past. Santa Maria’s elaborate façade is counted among the finest works of Venetian Baroque architecture, and its collection of sculpture and painting, which includes Madonna and Child with Young St. John, the only painting in the city by Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens, makes the church unique as a repository for some of the period’s finest work. WMF’s efforts at the site restored much of the church’s structural and artistic integrity. The Church of Santa Maria Del Giglio, a book by Mary Laura Gibbs and Marcia Macheski, was published by WMF, providing an extensive account of the church’s 1200-year history, a fitting conclusion to the project and a contribution to the art historical literature on Venice.

Last updated: June 2018.

Join us in safeguarding significant places.