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Cathedral Church of San Giorgio dei Greci

Cathedral Church of San Giorgio dei Greci

Castello 3422, Fondamenta dei Greci – Venice - ITALY



The Cathedral Church of St. George of the Greeks is used as a cathedral by the Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Malta, but belongs to the adjacent Hellenic Institute and, therefore, to the Greek State. Located in the Castello district (one of the six areas in which the city of Venice is divided), the church, begun in 1536 and completed in 1577, was built thanks to the contributions of the Orthodox living in Venice (above all mercenaries and intellectuals) and sailors Greeks passing through the city. San Giorgio dei Greci, externally similar to a classical Venetian church of the Renaissance, has a high and narrow facade, dominated by a long bell tower, hanging from the time of construction. The interior, with a single nave surmounted by a dome, is divided by the marble iconostasis covered by numerous sacred paintings. Of particular artistic importance is the icon of Christ blessing dating back to the end of the fourteenth century, admired by artists of all time, such as Goethe and André Malraux. Next to the church, the Hospital of the Poor Greeks, which worked from the seventeenth to the beginning of the twentieth century, has been transformed into a unique museum of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons. Many icons were transported to Venice by refugees and others were painted by Greek iconographers.
The Community of Orthodox Greeks was established in Venice in 1498 but the links between the city and the Greek world date back to far more distant times, when in the eleventh century the Venetians undertook to help the Byzantine Empire against the Normans. Since then the influence of the Lagoon Republic in the East was consolidated, thus favoring the commercial and cultural exchanges between the Republic of the Serenissima and the oriental populations, despite the tragic story of the IV Crusade which at the beginning of the 13th century recorded the conquest and the looting of Constantinople by crusaders and Venetians. In the fifteenth century, with the advance of the Turks and the fall of the Byzantine Empire, many Greek populations sought refuge in the West. In Venice the Greek community became the most numerous of the foreign components, playing an exceptional part in the development of classical studies, especially as regards the collection and conservation of ancient manuscripts. Among the numerous artists who settled or worked in Venice is Domínikos Theotokópoulos, called El Greco, while many Greek intellectuals began to publish their works thanks to printing works founded by Greeks. The Greek community followed the fate of the Serenissima. The fall of Venice (1797) also marked the decadence of the Orthodox community. The deposits in the bank, many precious objects and numerous sacred furnishings were confiscated by Napoleon, while its members sought a new homeland in other commercial centers of Italy or returned to Greece. The Community, which in 1998 celebrated the five hundredth anniversary of its foundation, is today very small, but continues in its task as custodian of the Greek cultural and linguistic identity and of the Orthodox religion.
The Greek Orthodox community of Venice, also regarding inter-religious dialogue, follows what was promoted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Being at the crossroads of continents, civilizations and cultures, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, whose headquarters is Phanar, the historic district of Istanbul on the Golden Horn, has always been a bridge between Christians, Muslims and Jews. Since 1977 he has been promoting a bilateral dialogue with the Jewish community, since 1986 he has been in dialogue with the Islamic community; and since 1994 has organized a series of international meetings to deepen the dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews on tolerance. Historian was the first meeting, after a thousand years of mutual misunderstanding and distrust, between the Ecumenical Patriarch Athénagoras and Paul VI on January 4, 1964 in Jerusalem; followed by that between John Paul II and Patriarch Dimítrios on November 30, 1979 at Phanar. On 30 November 2014, the Holy See also welcomed Pope Francis on an apostolic visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos.
For centuries, despite the close ties with the Byzantine Empire, the Greek Orthodox rite was not allowed in the lagoon city. In 1498, the Greek community obtained the right to found the School of Saint Nicholas of the Greeks, a confraternity that helped the members of that community. In 1539, after long negotiations, the papacy allowed the construction of the church of San Giorgio. The Greeks succeeded in obtaining from Pope Clement VII the privilege of not being subjected to the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Venice. In fact, all the Metropolitans of the Orthodox Church of Venice depend directly on the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and do not recognize the Pope's authority in Rome.
Direct visit with local guides.
Virtual tour: presentation of the religious site through the video-tour
Activities in calsse (pre and post visit)
Artistic itinerary through some detailed information on the church of San Giorgio dei Greci.
Further information on the iconostasis.
Activity of verification of the acquired knowledge and skills.



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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.