San Francesco del Deserto

If you are arriving from Sant'Erasmo or Burano and have on your disposal a small boat or can find a fisherman willing to give you a lift, you could easily reach the islet from Sant'Erasmo or Burano. Arriving by boat, it's already possible to make out from far away a dark stripe of rows of ancient cypresses and maritime pines that surrounds the outer island. When you get off the boat, take a long path and you'll arrive to the Church alongside the bell tower and the convent. From the door on your right you get to the recently restored first cloister and next to a 15th century cloister which has a real baroque well-curb in the middle. There had been restoration works in the entire complex since 1858, which brought to light not only other apses from the oratory but also the foundations of the ancient church dedicated to San Francesco d'Assisi, which can be reached from the first cloister. The antique 15th century church, brought back to life after restoration works, is an aisles church with the ceiling with ship's bottom hull and under the floor it's possible to see the ancient foundations and original flooring. The other church, recently constructed to host the ceremonies dates back to 1963.
The complex is surrounded by a garden, where you could enjoy a walk amongst the greenery and the silence of this place, only interrupted by chirping of numerous birds that fill it. On contrary, the vegetable gardens and vineyards cultivated by friars who live in the convent can not be visited.

Historic outlines

The hermitage foundation traditionally coincides with the short stay of San Francesco d`Assisi in the lagoon on his way back from Egypt, but there are still many doubts both on truthfulness of the fact and on an eventual active role of the saint in creating of settlement. It is known for sure that in 1228 the patrician Jacopo Michiel, owner of the island, in agreement with Sant`Antonio from Padua, a provincial minister, had put up a church in the name of San Francesco and is presumed to be the first one erected in the name of the saint.
In 1233 Michiel gave the island to the young friars of Franciscan convent of the Friars of Venice who constructed a convent here and where they had stayed up to 1420 when, driven by deterioration of the island, few remaining friars abandoned it and retired to the Friars. So, from 1420 and 1453 the island remained deserted (maybe the name of S. Francesco del deserto comes from it), up to 1453 when Pope Pio II granted the island to young practising friars who collected city offers and restored the church and the convent, building the renaissance cloister.
Forty years later Pope Clemente VIII invited to the island a community of young reformed friars who had stayed there until 1806, a year when they had to abandon it, following the Napoleonic suppressions, and withdraw to the convent of San Bonaventura in Venice. With secularisation, the convent, composed of thirty-one corridors, was used as storage of explosives and the entire island as a military headquarters. Still, in 1856 the emperor Francis of Austria gave the island to the patriarch of Venice, who granted it perpetually to young Franciscan friars who had returned here in 1858, after more than six hundred years.

Today, the island, run by young Franciscan friars, is not served by public transport but is easily reachable by our water taxi.
Once you have arrived, you'll find a guide available to go with the visitors through the island.
There has recently been opened a welcome house for the ones who want to spend here some days of retreat in silence and solitude, renewing the tradition of hermitages in the lagoon of Venice.

Useful information:

Address: Island of San Francesco del Deserto cap 30100 - Venice
Telephone: (+39)0415286863
Entrance fee: full visit free with offer
For timetable, consult website

Indicative length of journey:
half day



Address and Informations

Duration: mezza giornata

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