San Michele in Isola

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Façade of San Michele all'Isola in Venice

San Michele in Isola is a Roman Catholic church in Venice, northern Italy, located on the Isola di San Michele which houses the cemetery of the city. It was rebuilt from 1469 onwards and is dedicated to Saint Michael, the holder of the scales on Judgement Day, a fit guardian of the sleep of the faithful dead.[1]

The first church known to have been designed by the architect Mauro Codussi,[2] this is a reconstruction of an older church, that was commissioned by the Camaldolese community on the island in 1469. The church is built entirely in salt-white Istrian stone which weathers to a pale gray. San Michele is the first example of Renaissance architecture in Venice, with a facade that already shows the influence of Leon Battista Alberti.[3] The strongly delineated masonry courses[4] of the ashlar facade are carried right across the Ionic pilasters, a strikingly unusual feature for which that R. Lieberman could only find an earlier parallel in Bernardo Rossellino's Palazzo Piccolomini, Pienza, also of the 1460s, and also produced in an Albertian milieu. The design was influential in Venice. When it was finished, a monk of the community wrote, "The facade, now complete and perfect, shiner of such a beauty so that it turns in itself the light of the eyes of all those who walk or sail by".[5]

The interior has a nave and two aisles, with precious decorations.

The architectural ensemble from the water

Next to the main façade is the Cappella Emiliani (1530). On the other side is the cloister of the 15th century, through which the cemetery can be reached.


  1. ^ See Saint Michael (Roman Catholic)
  2. ^ R. Lieberman, reviewing L. and L.O. Puppi, Mauro Codussi e l'architettura veneziana (1977) in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 38.4 (December 1979:387-390) p. 388.
  3. ^ Noted by Lieberman and others, comparing it to the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini.
  4. ^ They are not quite channeled rustication.
  5. ^ Quoted, from Puppi and Puppi 1997, by Marco Frascari, "The Lume Materiale in the Architecture of Venice", Perspecta 24 (1988:137-145) p. 138f; Frascari is discussing the "material light" of Istrian stone in Venice. The quote is more easily followed if one understands the classical concept of vision in the form of eye-beams that darted from the eye to the object seen, resulting in the refractory qualities of this light-reflecting stone.

Coordinates: 45°26′55″N 12°20′49″E / 45.4487°N 12.3469°E / 45.4487; 12.3469