In the San Salvador Church, 1 minute away from the Rialto bridge, a precious treasure is ingeniously hidden: a centuries old silver and gold altarpiece of exquisite workmanship.
This “Pala d’Argento”, dating back to late 1300, measuring 246cmx294cm (that’s over 7 square meters or 75 square feet!) and weighing over 300kg, shows -in its very center- the transfiguration of Jesus surrounded by 3 apostles and the prophets Moses and Eliah. In the XVI century, it was enlarged with additional stripes representing sacred figures such as Maria, the 4 evangelists, and 8 apostles.
If you have never seen it, even if you were born and grew up in Venice, there is no need to run to an optician for a new pair of glasses, as this secret and sacred altarpiece can usually not be seen. All through the year, the “Pala d’Argento” is completely hidden behind a masterpiece of Tiziano (Titian) also representing the transfiguration. It is only on 3 very special occasions that Tiziano’s canvas is mechanically lowered to reveal the shiny and outstanding altarpiece!
Those who wish to see it should be aware that the only 3 periods during which it is possible to admire the “Pala d’Argento” are from Easter Sunday to the 1st of May, from the 6th to the 13th of August for the Transfiguration, and finally from Christmas until the 1st of January.
If you wonder how, 600 years later, this amazing altarpiece can still be as shiny as if it was brand new, we all have to thank for this both Venetian Heritage and Louis Vuitton, who, in 2011, respectively organized and funded the restoration of the Pala.
Already the same year, the Pala went back to being dazzling bright, as only 4 months of work made it possible to perceive again the contrast between the silver faces of the saints and their bodies made out of gold as well as to glimpse at traces of varnish which were said, already in the past, to beautify even further this authentic masterpiece.
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