Last week the archbishop of Venice, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, caused a stir by asserting that churches should not charge entrance fees. Voices were raised in alarm because many Italian churches, including at least 16 in Venice, contain superb works of art, and issuing tickets to tourists helps fund upkeep and restoration.
But the controversy reminded me quite how many wonderful paintings, mosaics and scultpures are there are in Italian churches which you can see without paying to enter. Together they surely rank as Europe’s greatest free art gallery - much enhanced that they remain where the artists and patrons intended them to be.
Here are 20 of the best. Knowing the problems and costs of resoration, if you visit any of them, you may feel inspired to make a donation after all.
Venice - 12th-century Mosaics, St Mark’sVenice - Tintoretto: The Last Supper and The Fall of Manna, San Giorgio MaggioreVenice - Giovanni Bellini: Madonna & Child with Four Saints, San ZaccariaVenice - Titian: Annunciation and Transfiguration, San SalvadorAquileia - Floor mosaic, Basilica of Santa Maria AssuntaRome - Michelangelo, Pietà, St Peter'sRome - Caravaggio, St Matthew, San Luigi dei FrancesiRome - Mosaics, Santa PrassedeRome - Bernini, St Teresa, Santa Maria della VittoriaRome - Raphael, Sibyls, Santa Maria della PacePadua - Donatello, Sculptures, Basilica of Sant'AntonioAssisi - Giotto, Life of St Francis, Basilica of San FrancescoSpello - Pinturicchio, life of Mary and the Child Jesus, Santa Maria MaggioreCorciano - Perugino, Pala di Corciano, Santa Maria AssuntaOrvieto - Façade, Duomo, OrvietoFlorence - Pontormo, Deposition, Jacopo Santa FelicitaFlorence - Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal, San MiniatoNaples - Pietro Cavallini, Crucifixion, San Domenico MaggioreOtranto - Mosaic floor, Pantaleone Santa Maria AnnunziataMonreale, Sicily - Mosaics, Santa Maria Nuova
Via Mariano Pallottini, Venice-etc