The 6 Greatest Churches in Venice – More Than Just San Marco

Canals and gondolas, palazzos and piazzas — Venice has all that. But Venice is also a city of churches. There are 250 that dot its watery landscape and they run the gamut from Byzantine to Medieval to Renaissance to Baroque. There's a lot of greatness in this churches since the best artists and architects of Venice, Italy, Greece, and Byzantium put their stamp on the designs, paintings and statues.

Venice is closely tied to the Madonna and there are plenty of opportunities to see art that pays homage to Mary, particularly in the Venetian Renaissance style. Here are our picks of the six top churches in Venice, starting with the most famous, Basilica San Marco. A bit of advice — there will always be a long line waiting to get in San Marco, so we recommend you book a tour that gets you past the lines and takes you right to the highlights.

1. Basilica di San Marco – St Mark's Basilica

Basilica di San Marco

Inspired by Byzantine icons and Islamic designs, the mosaics, marbles, and Asian treasures of Basilica San Marco are unlike any of the Gothic churches of northern Europe or even the Baroque churches found throughout Italy. Ant it's no wonder, this is one of the oldest churches in Christendom!

Built in 829, it was completely destroyed by fire in 976. The second time around (and in the course of a third rebuilding in 1043) they added a cosmopolitan edge — with inspiration from Greece, Syria, Egypt and Palestine. When you arrive, make sure you stand back far enough to take in the whole facade. And you might want to wear your sunglasses inside because of the glitter from all that gold!

Basilica di San Marco Highlights
  • Mosaic of Noah's Ark and the Great Flood
  • Pentecost Mosaic from 1125
  • Ascension Dome
  • Nicopeia, Our Lady of Victory, a painted wooden icon of Mary & Baby
  • San Marco Museum
  • Website

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Skip the Line at San Marco's
  • This informative guided walking tour around the open-air museum that is Venice gives you an insider's view of the most important sights of the island city. Even better, your guide takes you right past the line-ups at San Marco!
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Skip the Line at San Marco's & Doge's Palace Plus Venice Walking Tour
  • We like this three-in-one tour because it is like Venice In One Day. In two 2-hour tours you learn about the absolute best of the city, and mange to skip the lines while doing it.
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2. Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute

The distinctive white-domed church welcomes visitors to Venice as they arrive at the Bacino di San Marco, entering the Piazza San Marco from the water. The massive white stone exterior features Baroque scrolls, leafy Corinthian columns and 125 statues.

Less than 50 years after the plague of 1575, disease once more gripped Venice in 1630. The doge made a vow to build a church called the Salute (Good Health), praying to the Virgin Mary to end the plague. It became the last grand structure to be built in Venice before its decline began.

Santa Maria della Salute Highlights
  • Tintoretto's Marriage at Cana
  • Titian's ceiling paintingsCain Clubbing Abel, Abraham Sacrificing His Son, David Slaying Goliath, The Pentecost.
  • Giordano's trilogyBirth of the Virgin, Assumption of the Virgin, Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple
  • Website

3. Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

This popular Venetian church's classical Renaissance style grabs you with its swirling Rococo interior. Go for the art — its museum-quality collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures are some of the finest in Venice. Titian's fiery painting of the Assumption is the most spectacular version that you'll ever see.

Completed by the Franciscan order in 1492, the building is made of light and flexible red bricks. Reason? The marshy land can't support a heavy stone structure.

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari Highlights
  • Titian's The Assumption of the Virgin
  • Tomb of the Doge Foscari
  • Donatello's Statue of John the Baptist
  • Bellini's Madonna and Child with Saints and Angels
  • Veneziano's Madonna and Child with Doge Francesco Dandolo
  • Titian's Tomb — topped with the Venetian lion
  • Website

4. Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Known as the Marble Church, this tiny gem was built from marble left over from Basilica di San Marco. Pink, grey, and butter yellow stones dazzle both on the exterior and interior. It's a splendid example of Venetian Renaissance architecture created by a father-son team, Pietro Lombardo and his son, Tullio.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli Highlights
  • Lombardo's The Annuciation To The Virgin Mary & Archangel Gabriel
  • Lascaris' Madonna & Child

5. Madonna dell'Orto

The Church of Madonna dell'Orto

A Venetian Gothic masterpiece decorated with statues of the apostles and Archangel Gabriel. It just happened to be he parish church of Renaissance artist Tintoretto and the walls are decorated with many of his sumptuous paintings.

Madonna dell'Orto Highlights
  • Madonna dell'Orto
  • Tintoretto's Presentation of the Virgin, Last Judgement, Miracle of Saint Agnes
  • Tintoretto's Tomb
  • Website

6. Chiesa di San Vidal

Chiesa di San Vidal

Built in 1084, the church of San Vidal is famous for its interior artworks by Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. In the early 1700s, it got a facelift to celebrate Doge Moronsi's victory over Turkey. In 2016, the church was decommissioned and is now used as a lovely concert hall for classical music performances.

Chiesa di San Vidal Highlights
  • Carpaccio's San Vidal on Horseback with Eight Saints
  • Ricci's Immaculate Conception