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Venice, Italy

The Flooded Crypt of San Zaccaria

As can be expected from a centuries old church built in a canal city, the undercroft of this house of worship is beautifully flooded. 

Established in the 15th century using a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles that reflect the transitional times, Venice’s San Zaccaria church is a beautifully ornate church whose crypt has filled with the ubiquitous waters of the surrounding canals. 

There has actually been a church on the site since the 9th century when it was created by one of the local leaders (known as a doge) of the time. It was not until centuries later that the current architectural jewel was built on the site but the crypt is mainly populated by the bodies of the doges from the church’s initial tenure. The lovely burial basement features the columns and vaulted ceilings indicative of the times, but like many buildings in Venice this subterranean level is partially filled with a permanent level of standing water. However, rather than destroying the funereal beauty of the site, it tends to enhance it by acting as a sort of mirror pool, making the columns look almost twice as long and setting the tombs off from the dry portions of the floor, giving them an even more sacred feel. 

While most visitors to San Zaccaria focus on the ornate decoration of the main hall and facade, it is the crypt that truly set this place of worship apart from the rest of the pack. 

Know Before You Go

Enter the Church of San Zaccaria via the Campo San Zaccaria, veer to the right, and wait patiently for the docent to reappear at the desk to the right. Entrance is through the unremarkable door marked "please close door behind you." Exact change is very much appreciated.