The Island of Cipressi was originally covered in vineyards and cypress trees until a Benedictine monastery was built here in 982 and the church was built 5 years later by Vitale Candido and the Badoer family. The church's claim to fame was as the final resting place of the relics of Saint Stephen which was brought here from Constantinople in 1103. The saint's day became one of the city's most popular festivals, thousands of candles are floated on the Bacino di San Marco. In 1223 an earthquake caused extensive damage to the church and monastery and with the help of financing from Doge Pietro Ziani the buildings were repaired and rebuilt. In 1565 Palladio had the church enlarged, renovated and realigned so that the façade faced a different direction. After Palladio's death Simeone Sorella took over the project and worked on the church for the next 30 years. In 1610 the work was finally completed.
The temple-looking façade has a triangular pediment upon two stories with false columns (pilasters) built into the structure and niches housing statues. The interior has a Latin-cross design with white walls and Corinthian columns and pilasters. The church holds Jacopo da Bassano's Adoration of the Shepherds, Leandro de Bassano's Martyrdom of Saint Lucy, work by Ricci, Palma, Giovane and three works by Tintorettos. It is possible to go to the top of the tower (campanile) by elevator to get stunning views.
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