According to tradition, the church of San Giacomo (St. James), popularly known as San Giacometo, was built in 421 by a carpenter, a certain Candioto or Etinopo, who in the midst of a major fire made a vow to San Giacomo. He escaped unharmed and honoured the vow by erecting this church in the saint's name. Although unfounded, the legend is retold in such details that it appears to be a historical fact; it not only places the date but the exact time the church was established: March 25 at noon! The only certainty is that the Church existed in 1152 and that the date of consecration goes back to 1177.
While this seems to be a legend, what happened on the night of 9 January 1514 is in fact completely true. The entire island of Rialto was completely destroyed by a terrible fire, but the Church of San Giacomo remained miraculously unharmed. It was completely restored a few years later by a wealthy patron, Natale Regia, who was appointed priest of San Giacomo in 1503. He was full of conceit and filled the Church with plaques bearing his name and coat of arms. On Regia's death in 1532, the appointment of the new parish priest became a thorny issue and a source of discord between the Superintendent of Salt and the Patriarch of Venice; to settle the issue the Pope was asked to grant the patronage of San Giacomo to the Doge. Pope Clement VII agreed and from that moment on the appointment was made by the Doge. It was also established that the parish priesthood could be awarded only to Venetian natives.
After several successions, in 1932, Cardinal Pietro La Fontaine, Patriarch of Venice, ordered the Church of San Giacomo be entrusted to the Archconfraternity of San Cristoforo, a confederation founded to intercede on behalf of the deceased and to accompany them to the cemetery.
In the early 1800s Napoleon ordered the Kingdom of Italy to build cemeteries far from populated city centres, and Venice, which contained numerous small cemeteries scattered near the churches, had to adopt the edict. Initially, the island of San Cristoforo was designated as a suitable resting ground. Over time, however, it proved too small and burials were moved to the island of San Michele. This caused the citizens great sorrow as they were thus deprived of the opportunity to visit their dead on a daily basis. In fact, the number of people who went to the island were so few that the graves were not maintained. Hence two Venetian natives, Giacomo Massaggia and Bernardo Pasini, came upon the idea of creating an Archconfraternity to care for dearly departed.
Inscriptions in San Giacomo di Rialto Church
Visiting Hours: Daily 9am - 5pm
(Sunday 11am - 7pm)
Entrance fee: Free admission
(Aldo Bova "Places of Music in Venice")
In 1571 the German merchants celebrated for three days the victory of Lepanto and commissioned the music compositions to Andrea Gabrieli. In fact, a stage was built in front of the church where a solemn mass was sung.
During the Medieval Ages the music schools were mainly concentrated in Rialto. Even in the sixteen hundreds it was necessary to come here if one wanted to enlist as a musician or dancer.