Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli

This domed church is one of Venice’s earliest examples of Renaissance design and a peaceful space in one of the city’s residential districts.

Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli is one of Venice’s prettier churches. The early Renaissance building is nestled in between a picturesque square and a canal in the Cannaregio residential district, away from the tourist hub. The small church with its high dome is great to photograph from the outside. Inside is a beautiful space in which to spend a peaceful half hour or so away from the bustle of central Venice.

Arrive by gondola and pass through the shimmering waters that reflect the pink and white marble of the church’s façade. Make your way past the locals enjoying a coffee in the square. Pause before you enter to take in the building’s simple yet elegant shape, with its curved pediment and narrow, peaked dome.

The church is a historically significant spot for Catholic Venetians: The first people to make the journey here were pilgrims who came with offerings to an icon of Mary that was said to perform miracles, which included bringing a drowned man back to life. Eventually, enough funds were raised to erect a church here in the saint’s honor. Work began on the design in 1481 by Pietro Lombardo, who became one of the founding fathers of the Renaissance in Venice.

Inside, light streams in from above the high altar, making a focal point of the image of Mary, known as I Miracoli (The Miracle). See the pink, white and grey marble palette of the exterior continued on the interior walls, with polished rectangular panels along either side. Look up to see 50 square coffers, each with a painting of a prophet dressed as a Venetian. Take some time to examine the marble staircase, which has figures of Mary and her angels carved into the railings.

The Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli is located northeast of the Rialto Bridge in Cannaregio. The church is open every day of the week, but for only two hours on Sunday afternoons. There is a small charge for entry, which is sometimes waived on a Sunday. Photography inside the church is strictly forbidden.

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