“We leaned against a shop front just in front of the church’s facade; the pompous statues and curious bas-reliefs were dimly visible in the moonlight.” (Chapter 22)
Santa Maria del Giglio has one of the most extravagantly grandiose church-facades in Venice, perhaps only rivalled by that of San Moisé. Both were memorably denounced by John Ruskin “for their manifestation of insolent atheism”. Looking at the statuary on the front, one can see his point; the only religious symbols, as he points out, are the angels “blowing brazen trumpets, intended to express the spreading of the fame of the Barbaro family in heaven”.
However, if one puts aside all expectations of religious uplift, there’s a good deal to enjoy about the facade; in addition to the swaggering statues of four Barbaro brothers, it contains curious relief-maps of places (Zara, Candia [Crete], Padua, Rome, Corfu and Spalato [Split]) associated with the leading member of the family, Antonio Barbaro, who left the 30 thousand ducats that paid for the church. And more particularly it has some beautifully sculptured galleons in bas-relief, of the kind that inspired Bepi in his own parish-church of Sant’Isepo.