The basilica of San Pietro di Castello played a central role in Venetian history. From 775 to 1451 it was a Diocesan Church under the Patriarchate of Grado, then later became a Cathedral in its own right and the seat of the Patriarch of Venice until 1807. San Pietro stands on the antique island of Olivolo, now known as Castello, which was the first residential settlement and became the religious, political, and commercial centre in the lagoon.
The first church here was built in the VII century and was dedicated to the Byzantine Saints Sergio and Bacco; whilst the new basilica, dedicated to Saint Pietro the Apostle, was part of a group of churches that Bishop Magno had constructed in the IX century. The present building is the result of work carried out at the end of the XVI century and during the first three decades of the XVII century: the renovation of the facade is the work of Francesco Smeraldi based on original designs by Andrea Palladio in 1556. The imposing bell-tower in Istrian stone is an elegant Renaissance structure designed by Mauro Codussi (1482-1490).
The internal part of the cathedral has a Latin-cross form, divided by three naves and surmounted by a massive cupola. The predominate decoration is from the seventeenth-century, realized after the fire that destroyed the furniture and treasure of the antique church.
Noteworthy is also the high altar of inlaid polychrome marble designed in 1649 by Baldassare Longhena and containing an urn with the remains of the first patriarch of Venice, Saint Lorenzo Giustiniani.
To reinforce the fascinating primigenie of this antique church, on the right nave is placed the so-called Cathedral of Saint Pietro, traditionally considered the seat of Saint Antiochia and vice versa the work originated from Antiochia, but probably assembled in the XIII century utilizing an ancient Arab funeral stele with inscriptions from the Koran.
The main artistic treasures of the church are found in the right and left chapels of the presbytery, respectively, the masterpiece of Pietro Liberi (1660) "The Plague of Serpents" and the unique cross of wood and embossed copper, again an assemblage of Romanesque, Byzantine and 14th-century work.
The Vendramin and Lando Chapels in the north transept are also of particular importance: the first is the work of Baldassare Longhena with a fine "Virgin Mary and Child with Souls in Purgatory" by Luca Giordano (1650); the latter is a Late Gothic structure with a mosaic altarpiece by Arminio Zuccato (based on a Tintoretto cartoon) and a fragment of Roman mosaic that decorates the predella of the altar.
MUSICAL INFORMATION (Aldo Bova "Venezia i luoghi della musica")
Cathedral of Venice until 1807.
At Saint Mark's Basilica the musicians were given a salary, something that did not happen at the Church of Saint Pietro of Castello.
In celebration of San Lorenzo Giustiniani, the Doge and the entire Senate intervened in a solemn musical ceremony, officiated by the Patriarch.
The Nacchini organ (1754) has one keyboard and ten stop knobs and is placed in a small choir, behind the main altar.
In the chapel, adjacent to the Patriarchal Palace, Antonio Vivaldi received various degrees of priestly ordination.
from Monday to Saturday, from 10.30am to 1.30pm and from 2.30pm to 5pm
(last entrance 10 minutes before closing)