The Church and the Convent
The origins of San Salvador’s Church and Convent, named after Christ The Saviour, go back to the 11-12th centuries. Located into the very heart of Rialto’s area, the overall complex is mostly renown by all Venetians. Rialto, in Italian, means a “high shore” , the one by witch Venice developed and expanded, all along Canal Grande. The complex has been rebuilt several times on end, at first according to ancient Roman architecture, then assuming a more Gothic style along. It owes its ultimate and current reshape to the Renaissance age, in the XVI century.
Out of the artists who have worked on it, the great Cloister has also probably seen the slight touch of Jacopo Sansovino, who contributed to the embellishment of the Church which hosts a number of masterpieces, including the celebrated Annunciation by Tiziano, painted in his most creative age. Frescos and stuccos on the vaulted ceiling of the “Refectory” (monks’ canteen) are also dated from the 16th century.
In the latest 18th century, during the decline and the very end of the Venetian Republic, San Salvador Convent faced a dramatic decay which hampered its own existence, and it was turned into a barrack to serve Napoleon’s Army. After the First World War the Convent was acquired by the local Telecommunications company in Venice.
Since then, it has remained the main centre for Telecommunications in the Italian North-Eastern area.
In the middle of the 80ies, a main restoration was launched, devoted to restore the artistic treasures inside the complex, so to accommodate the overall area as a modern research Centre, newly meant to host advanced studies in Information and Telecommunications Technologies.
The Church and the Convent
“Vias tua Domine demostra mihi” recites the sole inscription on the portal of the ancient convent of San Salvador.
Please, cross the threshold to discover hidden and unexpected treasures: two cloisters, "both richly ornate of columns with carvings and other beauties", as Francesco Sansovino stated in the Sixteen Century, will smoothly welcome visitors, and lead them to a very private and mostly widest environment ever open to the public, right into the heart of Venice. The cloisters, which are to be admired still today, have been reshaped during the Renaissance age, possibly with the assistance of the great architect named Jacopo Sansovino.
The first cloister is nearly squared, dominated by a well right in the middle, and surrounded by an elevated porch running all four sides around. The columns, robust and quite elevated, based on a lower parapet, are supporting some light and very elegant Doric arches.
Several windows overlook the Cloister all around, thoroughly aligned, so to create a special evocative atmosphere known as "Venetian square", the one already chanted by Goldoni’s Theater. Events and exhibitions currently animate the place, especially on summer evenings.
Walking through the porch, you will then discover the second Cloister, broader than the latter, and even more relevant from a stylistic point of view. The refined architecture and astonishing art style are due to a queer perspective, playing the role of an optical telescope vision from the entrance of the first Cloister up to the monumental staircase. Besides, perfect acoustics make the Cloister a place of wonder for music and vocal performances.
One of the most impressive area of the Future Centre is the Refectory, the Monks’ Canteen, today transformed into a conference hall. In compliance with the artistic beauty of the place, the room has been refurbished with modern communications technology devices, so becoming an ideal meeting place, suitable for congresses, seminars, debates and conventions.
This 16th century hall used to be the monks’ canteen and it has maintained its formal shape, so that counter-juxtaposed benches all around the room still leave space, right in the middle, for the ancient Abbot’s escritoire, dated from four centuries abroad. The same style has been preserved from the times until nowadays, so to highly combine past and future, history heritages and innovative technologies. Moreover, each seat is provided with a personal screen and a conference system so to enable a close interaction between attendees and lecturers. The hall is also equipped with an automated voting system to conduct opinion polls in real time.
Participating to a conference under the magnificent frescos and stuccos which adorn the vaulted ceiling is quite an extraordinary experience, whose virtuosity has been reported in “Progetto San Salvador” , a survey published on behalf of Telecom Italia in 1988.
In the hall in front of the refectory you can see a small but interesting collection of telephones, which mark the stages of evolution of the phone in the past century.
“The Refectory’s vaulted ceiling”
Into the monastery, the refectory and the cloisters are highly remarkable, both embellished by columns, carvings and other beauties”: here comes Fancesco Sansovino’s statement, published in 1581 in his book “Venetia città nobilissima et singolare” (Venice, the noble and unique one). Such an appraisal, though quite generic, represents the most ancient testimony, as for the historical events related to San Salvador, which somehow conceal a touch of “thrill and mystery” on the making of frescos adorning the vaulted ceiling.
The ceiling, in fact, is richly decorated with a subtle mélange of stuccos and frescos: along with five octagonal wide areas moving through the central axe, sixteen oblong ovals standing around five internal circles and two larger ovals along the shortest sides, the vault extravagant flourish shows up a plethora of grotesque motifs, medallions and symbolic figures.
Unfortunately, interpretation of frescos is hampered by the fading away, carried out by passing times. The renovation opera started in the 80ies could just stop the ongoing degradation, without affecting the single parts remained unplastered. Notwithstanding reports dated from 1565 indicating Polidoro da Lanciano as the main painter of the frescos, the one who has been actually granted by more than one critic, and by many researchers as well, is Fermo Ghisoni.
Ghisoni, who was born in the village of Caravaggio in 1505, was keenly attached to Giulio Romano whom he thoroughly assisted in the painting of the frescos in Palazzo Te in Mantua, and later on in the decoration of Palazzo Ducale, in Mantua as well, in 1538, the same year he concluded his long practice. It is also known that since summer 1545, Fermo Ghisoni had stayed in Venice whereas the Canons of San Salvador, after fitting the Refectory out with wooden furnishings and decor, decided to ornate the vaulted ceiling too.
Let alone chronology, the comparison between frescos at Refectory of San Salvador and the ones in Mantua, the city where Ghioni enjoyed Romano’s guidance and teaching, shows nevertheless more than one similarity in make-believe illusions, lateral perspectives and shapes counterfeiting.
A Chapel is founded by Gregorio Magno, bishop in Oderzo, nearly escaped from barbarian invasions.
San Salvador’s Church is consecrated by Alessandro III, as he encounters the Emperor Federico Barbarossa who commands to lay the Convent
The Convent construction is achieved; it was committed to Augustinian monks and well combine both Roman and Gothic features.
There comes a pronouncement stating that horses should “be tied up” not to cross San Salvador field, so named after the Convent, neither enter the renown and commercial area called “Merceria”.
In San Salvador Convent are to gather Serenissima’s High Officers so to decide Marin Faliers’ fate, as guilty of betrayal.
The Complex is designed on Jacopo de Barbari’s map; in the first half of the 16th century it is reshaped according to Renaissance style by Giorgio Spavento, and Pietro e Tullio Lombardo, who also appreciated Jacopo Sansovino’s slight touch. So there are commenced the frescos of the Refectory’s vaulted ceiling, and some decoration of the Cloisters.
A fire affects and hardly spoils the Convent.
Napoleon suppresses Church’s properties. He allocates the Convent as a barrack, the use of which will be the same under the Austrian regime.
A bomb hits the Church during the seige to the Republic, under Daniele Manin and Nicolò Tommaseo.
The Convent remains to be used as a barrack, and serve the Infantry Battalion under the Savoia monarchy.
The bell tower is newly raised up and restored after a serious fire.
The Telecommunications Company (Società di Telecomunicazioni) is settled up and lay down the first telephone branch exchange. The Convent becomes the headquarters site of the Company, which will be named subsequently Telve, Sip and finally Telecom Italia.
Launch of renovation works and founding of Telecom Italia’s Future Centre.
The Future Centre hosts BCE Government Council, chaired by Jean Claude Trichet and Mario Draghi.
The Future Centre hosts most of the Digital Venice events, promoted by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the support of European Commission – DG Connect, that will gather policy, industry and innovation leaders from all over Europe to trace the road to a growing, sustainable digital economy.