Veronese the illusionist

1464. The streets were empty. Only here and there a body was lying on the floor … stock-still. Smoke filled the air. Children were crying, people were wailing. The plague had another time entered the city.

Not everywhere in Venice though. The citizens living close to the church Santa Maria Assunta were saved by miracle („Thank you Saint Sebastian!”) from the black death. To thank Sebastian for his heavenly help it was decided to dedicate the little oratory of the Virgin also to Sebastian*.

The new church

Now, when more and more believers came to the little church and there was not enough space any more to house all the believers it was decided to built a new church even bigger and more beautiful that the actual one.

The “virtual reality” decoration

The decoration was entrusted to one of the most important Renaissance painters in Venice: Paolo Caliari, also called the „Veronese“. Veronese created in this little church in the outskirts of the city an artistic and theatrical masterpiece that stuns with its spectacular frescoes and paintings: „Virtual Reality“ already existed in the 16th century thanks to Veronese’s genius!

The spectacular organ

Just look at the double wing door of the organ: When these are open you can see the probatic pool depicted masterly. “Where is the pool?“, you will ask.

Source: Chorus Marsilio – Veronese in the Church of Saint Sebastian

We can only see the edge of the pool where the sick and the paralysed are sitting and waiting that an angel moves the waters. The first one who plunges himself in the waters after the angel has touched it, will be healed from all his illnesses.

The surface of the water corresponds to the lower edge of the painting: On the right side you can see how a sick is pulled out of the pool.

And the illusion?

Well, here you can spot the genius of Paolo Caliari: The perspective chosen by Veronese makes it look like the organ player is sitting right in the waters of the probatic pool and only his head is looking out from the water. Isn’t this amazing?**

Veronese dedicated fifteen years of his life to the decoration of the church that we can consider his personal „Sixtine Chapel“ where he also found his last resting-place.

*Saint Sebastian was generally worshipped in cases of plague.

**It is not the only illusion you can find in the church!

Find more infos on the opening hours and the entrance fee of the Church of San Sebastiano here.

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