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An inextricable part of Venice history
Fondazione Cini (San Giorgio), or some form of Benedictine monastery, has resided on this island since 982, when Doge Tribuno Memmo donated the island to the order. The monastery continued to benefit from ducal donations, acquiring large tracts of land both in and around Venice and abroad.
After the church acquired the remains of St Stephen (1109), it was visited yearly by the doge on 26 December, the feast day of the saint. The city authorities often used the island as a luxury hotel for particularly prestigious visitors, such as Cosimo de' Medici in 1433. Cosimo had a magnificent library built here; it was destroyed in 1614, to make way for a more elaborate affair by Longhena (now open only to bona fide scholars with references to prove it).
In 1800 the island hosted the conclave of cardinals that elected Pope Pius VII, after they had been expelled from Rome by Napoleon. In 1806 the French got their own back, supressing the monastery and sending its chief artistic treasure – Veronese’s Marriage Feast at Cana – off to the Louvre, where it still hangs. For the rest of the century the monastery did ignominious service as a barracks and ammunition store.
In 1951 industrialist Vittorio Cini bought the island to set up a foundation in memory of his son, Giorgio, killed in a plane crash in 1949. The Fondazione Giorgio Cini uses the monastery buildings for its activities, including artistic and musical research (it holds a collection of Vivaldi manuscripts, plus illuminated manuscripts), and a naval college. The history of this site is inextricably tied to Venice and vice versa.
Fondazione Cini (San Giorgio)
Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Phone: 041 524 0119
Open Hours: Monastery 10am-4.30pm Sat, Sun with guided tours every hour