The big Basilica, with its white façade of perfectly balanced Renaissance proportions, designed by Andrea Palladio in the 16th century, is the first building that you notice on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, situated opposite Piazza San Marco and separated from the heart of the historic centre of Venice by the Canale della Giudecca.
The island was once owned by the noble Memmo family; between the 8th and 9th centuries a little church was built on it, and in the, 10th century the whole island was donated to the Benedictine Monks. They reclaimed the land around the chapel and had a monastery built, which in the 11thcentury was enhanced by the construction of the big Basilica dedicated to St. George.
This corner of the lagoon is very close to the heart of Venice, and getting here is very easy. The ACTV steamers stop at San Giorgio a few minutes away from one another and link the island to the San Marco district, to which it belongs from the administrative point of view, along with neighbouring island Giudecca, from which it is divided by the narrow Canale della Grazia.
Today on San Giorgio Maggiore island – which in the Napoleonic period was converted into a free port with its own dock and warehouses following the closure of the monastery – the impressive basilica remains; a masterpiece which contains works of absolute value, such as canvas paintings by Tintoretto and antique Benedictine buildings. The latter, after being restored and upgraded by the Giorgio Cini Foundation, now host cultural events and conferences, as well as libraries and a photo library, and can be visited as part of a guided tour organized by the Foundation.