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Tintoretto, Baptism of Christ, Scuola grande di san Rocco


With his Ninety-Five Theses, Martin Luther challenged the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on penance and papal authority.  In response, the Council of Trent reaffirmed traditional doctrine and decreed that through clarity, simplicity, and intelligibility, art should instruct and confirm the faithful in their beliefs and stimulate piety, devotion, and allegiance.

In The Art of Salvation, you'll enter a world of spiritual rebirth and seething political and social tensions where you'll glory in the great works of Venice's Reformation painters and follow the intense theological debates that determined their creation.  Throughout this religious tour, you'll also see Venice face the first signs of its economic decline and struggle to maintain its trading relations with the Protestant cities while simultaneously repressing internal dissent and seeking the support of the Papacy in its ongoing wars against the Ottoman Turks.

Paolo Veronese's "Crowning of the Virgin" in the Church of san Sebastiano is included in Venicescapes guided walking tour of Venice "The Art of Salvation

Paolo Veronese
Coronation of the Virgin
San Sebastiano


Our guided tour will begin at the stately Church of San Nicola da Tolentino and the onset of the Protestant Reformation when the cries of “Solus Christus” and “Sola Scriptura” first echoed throughout Europe and shattered the Christian world.  We'll talk about the abuses and corruption in the Church that gave rise to these two fundamental Protestant beliefs and about the international tensions that favored the spread of the Reformation and made Venice the hope of the Italian evangelicals.  As we visit the gilded and marble-encrusted church, you'll also learn about Rome's own attempts to reform and discover how architecture could be manipulated to serve religious ends.  At the Scuola Grande di san Rocco, Tintoretto's art will then show you the full potential of religious imagery to transcend the spoken word and reach out to the faithful through the power of emotion.  As his canvases unfold around us and explain the mysteries of salvation, we'll talk about the charitable acts performed by the confraternity of san Rocco and follow the great Reformation debate surrounding “Sola fide”.  We'll also discover the importance of Venice's lay brotherhoods in controlling dissidents and hear instead how Venice came to deal secretly with the most radical of the Reformers.  We'll then reach the tiny Church of Saint Sebastian where the walls glow with the rich coloring of Veronese's paintings.  We'll hear of this devout artist's trial for heresy before Venice's Holy Inquisition and see how the resurgent social ambitions of artistic patrons came to be reconciled with the new spirituality of the Church.  Gazing upward to the radiant ceiling paintings that narrate the story of the Biblical Queen Esther, we'll then learn  how the Church defended the continued veneration of the Virgin Mother of God and responded to the Protestant cry of “Soli Deo gloria”.  Our final destination is the meeting hall of the Scuola ‘dei Picai’, the ‘Brotherhood of the Hanged’, where pious laymen gathered to pray for executed criminals.  Here, Palma Giovane's Purgatory cycle looms fatefully overhead.  As we watch the repentant souls emerge from the purging flames and ascend to their final glory, we'll see how the last painter of Venice's Golden Age responded to the Protestant tenet of “Sola gratia” and reaffirmed instead the Church's traditional belief in merit obtained through acts of devotion.

A private visit to the Ateneo veneto is included in Venicescapes guided walking tour of Venice "The Art of Salvation

Palma Giovane
Granting of indulgences for the souls of Purgatory
Scuola ‘dei Picai’




Approximately 6 hours

  • Depending upon availability, it is also possible to divide the guided tour into two half-day segments.


  • Chiesa di san Nicola da Tolentino
  • Scuola Grande di san Rocco
  • Chiesa di san Sebastiano
  • Scuola ‘dei Picai’


  • Reformation art: fresh images for a timeless faith
  • Mannerism: the visualization of power and the individual
  • Baroque architecture: to the Church's everlasting glory
  • Musical reform: the emotion of song
  • The “Five Solas”: the essentials of the Protestant creed
  • The Papacy: Venice's cumbersome ally
  • Anti-trinitarians, Anabaptists, and Millenarians: the enemies within
  • Jesuits, Theatines, and Barnabites: spiritual renewal and the threat of dissent
  • The European apocalypse: from the Peasants' Revolt to the Thirty Years' War


This guided walking tour is not available on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and on all Christian holidays.


Timeline of Venetian Renaissance art
material protected by copyright

Religious Art
of the Venetian Renaissance

a timeline with the lives and principal religious works of the great Venetian masters and their Italian contemporaries along with the Venetian doges and wars, the popes, emperors, rulers of Milan, Florence, Mantua, and Ferrara, and the religious and humanistic milestones of the Renaissance



The price indicated for this private guided religious tour is intended to cover the costs of the Society's continued research initiatives and organization and is in compliance with the conditions concerning the activities of non-profit organizations as set forth in the Ministry of Finance Unified Code Article 148, paragraph 3 (T.U. Art. 148, comma 3).

  • Price: €320.00 (euro) for two (2) persons.  Each additional adult costs €60.00.  Minors under the age of 18 cost €30.00 each.  Incidental transportation costs and entrance fees are not included.
  • Price includes one (1) copy of Venicescapes’ timeline “Religious Art of the Venetian Renaissance”.  Additional copies are available at €15.00 per copy.
  • The ticket for the Church of San Sebastiano can be purchased individually at the church or as a part of the Chorus Pass.


The private visit to the Scuola ‘dei Picai’ cannot be confirmed prior to arrival in Venice.


To help make this guided history tour of Venice a culturally enriching and educational experience, these books are recommended.


Reviews of
The Art of Salvation



Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin have arrived in Venice!  They have lived here for some time, not in person but in a more intense presence – in their thoughts, ideas, beliefs and theology – an invasion incapable of being thwarted by barricades or bunkers.

Venice, the holy city, “Sancta Civitas”, is no longer “La Serenissima”.  It can never remain that.  The isolated geography that stopped the barbarians of the 6th century is no match for the invasion of “Grace Alone”, “Scripture Alone”, “Faith Alone”.  Yes, some of the populace of Venice begin reflecting on these new ideas, and the Papacy – often at odds with Venice over the centuries – makes its call to arms.  The generals are the Catholic artists whose brushwork, designs, and concepts on the ceilings and walls of “scuole” and churches bring forth the doctrines of Mary, Tradition, good works, and … the correctness of Catholicism.  At the same time, in the shadows of the city comes forth the Inquisition to ensure that the populace as well as the artist-generals understand the correct message.

This guided tour is NOT about the correctness of any doctrine.  There are no right or wrong answers or observations.  This is a tour of the history, the art, the people, the ideas, and the responses to forces alive in Venice during a certain time.  The discussions and observations are thoughtful, reflective, and engrossing.  At the end of this lengthy tour with its numerous visits, you will desire more and more.  Your visits are to churches, “scuole” – even a private one – and the city of Venice itself.  Perfect.

Vernon and Gloria Fairchild
Cape Coral, Florida


Totally unique among the available tours of Venice!  “The Art of Salvation” shows the uses of art to educate, inspire, and persuade in the battle for hearts and minds that shaped up as the Reformation.  We started our walk looking at Catholic orthodoxy in the Theatine church.  But we then discovered how Venice responded in very Venetian ways to the ideas of the Reformation.  Each of the stops on this tour is a masterwork, including two scuolae and the utterly stunning San Sebastiano. But now we know why the artists were painting – not just what they were painting.  Highly, highly recommended!

Connie Howard
Palo Alto, California


The tour helped me understand the issues of the Reformation through the work of the artists in Venice.  The five main solae, the teachings of the Protestant Reformation —  “Scripture Alone”, “Faith Alone”, “Grace Alone”, “Christ Alone”, and “Glory to God Alone” —  had implications for what art portrayed.  The response of the Catholic artists was powerful.  I found my understanding deepen and my appreciation grow during this wonderful tour.

Eleanor Gilpatrick
New York, New York


For further information about this unique guided religious tour of Venice
and reservations, write to


To share



STORY OF A MERCANTILE EMPIRE – history, architecture, and urban development

A MOST SERENE REPUBLIC – constitution and government

A CITY OF NATIONS – foreigners and immigrants

THE SPLENDORS OF PIETY – renaissance art and religious life

CUSTODIAN OF WISDOM – education and intellectual life

THE AGE OF DECADENCE – life in the eighteenth century

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