It has a large 15th-century clock above the entrance, a useful item in the Venetian business district but regarded as a standing joke for its inaccuracy[by whom?]. The Gothic portico is one of the few surviving examples in Venice. It has a Latin cross plan with a central dome. Inside, the Veneto-Byzantine capitals on the six columns of ancient Greek marble date from the 11th century.
According to tradition, San Giacomo is the oldest church in the city, supposedly consecrated in the year 421. Although documents exist mentioning the area but not the church in 1097, the first document citing the church dates from 1152. It was rebuilt in 1071, prompting the establishment of the Rialto market with bankers and money changers in front of the church. The system with the "bill of exchange" was introduced here, as clients went with such a bill of exchange with a credit inscribed from one banker to another.
In 1503, it survived a fire which destroyed the rest of the area, and was restored from 1601 by order of DogeMarino Grimani. Works included raising of the pavement to counter the acqua alta.