The Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo is, known in the Venetian dialect as San Zanipolo, is one of the largest churches in the city. After the 15th century the funeral services of all of Venice's doges were held here, and twenty-five doges are buried in the church.
A huge brick edifice built in the Italian Gothic style, it is the principal Dominican church of Venice, and as such was built for preaching to large congregations. It is dedicated to John and Paul, not the Biblical Apostles of the same names, but two obscure martyrs of the Early Christian church in Rome, whose names were recorded in the 3rd century but whose legend is of a later date.
In 1246, Doge Jacopo Tiepolo donated some swampland to the Dominicans after dreaming of a flock of white doves flying over it. The first church was demolished in 1333, when the current church was begun. It was not completed until 1430.
The vast interior contains many funerary monuments and paintings, as well as the Madonna della Pace, a miraculous Byzantine statue situated in its own chapel in the south aisle, and a foot of St Catherine of Siena, the church's chief relic.
It shares its piazza with the fine Renaissance facade of the Scuola San Marco and an equestrian statue of the mercenary (condottiere) captain Colleone. Look out for the testicles (coglioni in Italian - it's a lousy pun) on his coat of arms!
- Giovanni Bellini (SS Vincent Ferrer, Christopher and Sebastian in the south aisle)
- Bartolomeo Bon (the great west doorway)
- Cima da Conegliano or Giovanni Martini da Udine (Coronation of the Virgin in the south transept)
- Piero di Niccolò Lamberti and Giovanni di Martino (tomb of Doge Tommaso Mocenigo in the north aisle)
- Pietro Lombardo (tombs of Doge Pietro Mocenigo on the west wall and Doges Pasquale Malipiero and Nicolò Marcello in the north aisle; tomb of Alvise Diedo in the south aisle)
- Tullio Lombardo ( and Alessandro Leopardo?) (tomb of Doge Andrea Vendramin on the north wall of the choir)
- Lorenzo Lotto (St Antonine in the south transept)
- Rocco Marconi (Christ between SS Peter and Andrew in the south transept)
- Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (St Dominic in Glory on the ceiling of the Capella di San Domenico)
- Veronese (The Assumption, The Annunciation and The Adoration of the Magi on the ceiling of the Capella del Rosario; The Adoration of the Shepherds in the Capella del Rosario)
- Alessandro Vittoria (St Jerome in the north aisle)
- Alvise Vivarini (Christ carrying the Cross in the sacristy)
- Bartolomeo Vivarini (Three Saints in the north aisle)
The Capella del Rosario (Chapel of the Rosary), built in 1582 to commemorate the victory of Lepanto, contained paintings by Tintoretto, Palma the Younger, Titian and Giovanni Bellini, among others, but they were destroyed in a fire in 1867 attributed to anti-Catholic arsonists.
After the 15th century the funeral services of all of Venice's doges were held in San Giovanni e Paolo. Twenty-five doges are buried in the church, including:
- Jacopo Tiepolo (d. 1249)
- Reniero Zeno (d. 1268)
- Lorenzo Tiepolo (d. 1275)
- Giovanni Dolfin (d. 1361)
- Marco Cornaro (d. 1368)
- Michele Morosini (d. 1382)
- Antonio Venier (d. 1400)
- Michele Steno (d. 1413)
- Tommaso Mocenigo (d. 1423)
- Pasquale Malipiero (d. 1462)
- Nicolò Marcello (d. 1474)
- Pietro Mocenigo (d. 1476)
- Andrea Vendramin (d. 1478)
- Giovanni Mocenigo (d. 1485)
- Alvise I Mocenigo (d. 1577)
- Sebastiano Venier (d. 1578)
- Bertucci Valiero (d. 1658)
- Silvestro Valiero (d. 1700)