The church of St. Mary of Nazareth is easily one of the most beautiful shrines you'll find anywhere on earth. Located just a few short steps from the Santa Lucia Train Station in Venice, it’s also one of the most frequently visited churches in the entire city.
It was designed in 1654 by the Italian architect Baldassare Longhena, and served as the public chapel for a small group of Discalced Carmelites for many years. In 1915, the church was devastated when an enemy bomb was dropped by an Austrian warplane in World War I. This destruction led to nearly of century of subsequent restoration, which has resulted in the church we see today.
The inside of St. Mary’s is arguably one of the most richly decorated and breathtaking designs ever conceived. As nearly every square inch of the church is covered in a vast array of paintings, sculptures, precious metals, and colorful patterns of stone and marble.
The main altar especially, designed after the popular Baroque style of the 17th Century, is so overwhelming that it’s difficult to focus on any one aspect of its design. With the exception of its unique 8 pillared arrangement, and its masterful blend of gold and purple hues.
The many side-altars of this church are each dedicated to a notable saint in the history of the Carmelite order, including St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and of course The Holy Family. Altogether, the restoration of St. Mary’s has definitely been a labor of love, and it testifies to true depth of Carmelite spirituality.
It’s a once in a century work of art, and an experience you won’t easily forget.