Chiesa di San Lorenzo – Marco Polo – Venice

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We were passing this church, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, with our guide and I said how sad it was that the door was locked on this interesting church and I explained that we had tried the door the day before.  Yes the church is never open to the public, it is always locked…..and then she dropped the bombshell that Marco Polo had been buried there 1324 and his father, both of them…..but they had lost them in one of the many rebuilds in the 16th centruy… can you lose Marco Polo…..but they did, although they think he is in there somewhere !


The original church was founded in 812 with a Benedictine convent built in 854. Rebuilt several times, the current church dates from a complete rebuilding by Sorella in 1592-1602. But the facade was never even started. You can see from the wall that it has an unfinished look about it, I actually thought this was how it was meant to be.  If you look closely you can see square holes, I suppose that is how they fixed the stone or marble on to the facade.  I did see another church with just the plinths finished, but again just thought thats how it was mean to be.  Just after 1810 some of the convent buildings were demolished and in WW1 the church was badly damaged, and over the years restoration work is suppose to have been carried out, although it seems very slowly.


The church is one large space and it would have been divided between the nuns and the public, each would have had their own organ.  It would seem that the church never reopened after WW1, although it did re-open briefly in 1984 as a venue for the Biennale when architect Renzo Piano built a temporary wooden amphitheater inside the church for the debut of an opera by composer Luigi Nono.  There were plans for Mexico to hold venues in the church, but apparently that all fell though, so now it sits in a very forlorn state, as can be seen from a photo I found in a book.


I think it is even worse than this photo now, great holes in the floors and nearly of of the removable parts of the church removed, I’m not sure if it will ever be restored.  But it would be wonderful if they made it safe for visitors and then we could see the foundations of the building, similar to when I visit one of our church ruins in the UK and you can see how it was built.  The church is said to be one of the earliest religious sites in Venice and it’s such a shame it has come to this.

Venice October 2016

10 Replies to “Chiesa di San Lorenzo – Marco Polo – Venice”

    1. Yes it is most likely money, I should that it would cost a small fortune to finish this restoration. I do wonder if he is there, pity they can’t find him 🙂

  1. Now that’s an interesting thought.. the missing case of Marco Polo… the church still shows signs of its former beauty. I’m surprised that they don’t do more digging to discover if Marco is for sure buried there… what a tourist attraction that would make.

    1. Well thats what I think, it would be a wonderful attraction, thats if is true, I suppose we will never know……maybe thats what all the big holes in the floor were for 🙂

  2. What a sad fate for a beautiful building. Very interested to read about Marco Polo – I guess the same has happened with quite a few of our kings and queens, but it makes you wonder how it came about! Love your photos of Venice, Lynne.

    1. Thank you Jo, glad you have enjoyed them, the whole place is one big history lesson. Came many years ago, but I think its only as you get older, you see things differently, this time I loved it, even the decay is beautiful. I think its a bit like Iona, that if you go once, you will visit three times, well I am hoping its the same 🙂

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