Isola di San Giorgio e Giudecca

Our places: Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore a Venezia

By Emilia Campagna

March 4, 2016

There is a place in Venice where, instead of getting lost through the channels, you could do it in a hedge labyrinth: built in 2012 and dedicated to the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, the maze is on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore. It is inside the ancient monastery of the Benedictine, whose building occupies a great part of the island. When one looks from San Marco, the glance is a must. The labyrinth is one of the most recent human work in a place occupied by sixteenth century architecture. Based on a project by Randoll Coate, it is a network of narrow paths more than a kilometer long and formed by boxwood bushes, and it homages the short story “The Garden of Forking Paths” (“El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan”, 1941).

It is not the only wonder of an island of great charm, a place of refined tourism, away from the clamor of the stalls and crowds of Piazza San Marco: the architectural complex was in a huge part designed by Andrea Palladio, who rebuilt the monastery in the second half of ‘500 by working there for twenty years, from 1560 to his death.

The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore gives to the island a unique visual impact: its impressive white facade is surmounted by the bell tower and flanked by perimeter walls beyond which one can catch a glimpse of the greenery of the gardens.

isola di san giorno maggiore
View of the island from San Marco
San Giorgio Maggiore
Panorama view from the bell tower: on the right, Giudecca Island, on the left the Lido

Inside the majestic Palladian church you can admire some paintings of great importance, including “L’ultima cena” (The Last Supper) by Jacopo Tintoretto, an oil painting that represents the scene in a completely original way and, for someone, in a visionary one.

The island (and, in particularly the Longhena’s grand staircase, a monumental entrance providing access to the abbots’ lodging, completed by Baldassarre Longhena in 1643) was chosen as movie set for “The Merchant of Venice”, in which an astounding Al Pacino played the character of the Shakespearean Shylock.

Nowadays on San Giorgio Maggiore Island you can find a special silence: it is the silence of study and research. In fact, the island is the venue of “Fondazione Giorgio Cini”, a non-profit cultural institution constituted by Vittorio Cini, in memory of his son Giorgio, with the aim of restoring the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore (devastated after 100 years of military occupation) and of creating an international cultural centre that would re-integrate the Island into the life of Venice. Alongside the Foundation’s commitment to its own research and the conferences and seminars growing out of this work, the Island welcomes events sponsored by distinguished cultural and scientific organisations.

So, we couldn’t find a better place for our workshops and auditions. Looking forward to land to the island!

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About Emilia Campagna

Journalist and musician, Emilia is a blogger for Theresia