Palladio himself built the facade of the church of San Francesco della Vigna, as we shall see later. 190 THE ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY OF VENICE Sansovino’s religious commissions were not always so tightly bound to an established tradition. In the case of the church of the Incurabili hospital, begun to his design in 1565, there was no obvious prototype on which to base the project. 58 By the middle of the sixteenth century the four big state-assisted hospitals of the city had acquired a very special reputation for their choirs of orphan girls. In Venice a new kind of reli- gious music – the coro spezzato, or split choir – was beginning to take over from the medieval Gregorian chant, and it soon became fashionable for nobles and foreign visitors to go to one of the four hospitals, or to San Marco, on feast days to hear sung masses performed by such choirs. The Ospedale degli Incurabili – in fact the syphilis hospital, which had an orphanage attached – was the first to build a new church especially designed for polyphonic choral music. Sansovino chose an oval plan, or rather a rectangle with rounded ends, for which there was no precedent in Venice fig. 113. By adopting such a compact form he hoped to avoid confusing echoes, which were such a problem in the cavernous spaces of San Marco.
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