St. Lorenzo Giustiniani: The Iconography

The death in Venice of St. Lorenzo Giustiniani, confessor, the first Patriarch of that city. Endowed with sacred wisdom, he was placed among the number of the saints by Pope Alexander VIII. His feast is properly celebrated on September 5, the day when he was made Patriarch. – Roman Martyrology for January 8

St. Lorenzo Giustiniani was the first Patriarch of Venice. In images he is often identified by a close-fitting cap shaped as in the first picture at right and by a "patriarchal cross," a long cross with a small extra crosspiece. His life is the subject of a great many paintings in San Pietro, which served as the city's cathedral in his day, including these two lining the walls of the chancel:
Antonio Bellucci, St. Lorenzo Giustiani Intercedes for the Liberation of Venice from the Plague of 1447 (1695). See the description page.
Antonio Bellucci, The Charity of St. Lorenzo Giustiniani (1691). See the description page.
Lorenzo's vita, written by his nephew Bernardo Giustiniani, recounts a number of miracles. One of them is illustrated by a painting to the right of the main altar. Two more are on the left.

In church terminology a patriarch is a bishop of a city whose church was founded by one of the Apostles. In early times Aquileia, on the Venetan mainland, claimed to be such a city and its bishop carried the title of Patriarch. But in the 5th century several invasions left the city in ruins. The few survivors fled to the island of Grado, where their bishops retained the title of Patriarch until 1451, when Grado's church was merged with that of Venice and Giustiniani was made the first Patriarch of the combined diocese.1

Prepared in 2023 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.


It is believed that this painting by Gentile Bellini served as a processional banner for the Canons Regular of San Giorgio in Alba. (See the description page.)

The apotheosis of St. Lorenzo Giustiniani is pictured in the vault and catino above the main altar at San Pietro. (See the description page.)


  • A close-fitting black cap
  • A patriarchal cross


  • 1722-23: Lorenzo Giustiniani prays at an altar as the Madonna and Child look down from Heaven in Niccolò Bambini's The Virgin and Saints.
  • 18th/19th century: In Lattanzio Querena's St. Joseph with the Christ Child and Saints St. Lorenzo Giustiniani is pictured with his characteristic cap and patriarchal cross.
  • 19th century: Lorenzo appears with other saints regarding the crucified Christ in Sebastiano Santi's Crucifixion with Saints.


  • Various English-language sources may refer to him as Laurence Giustiniani or even as "Lawrence Justinian."


  • Lived 1381-1455
  • Feast day: September 5


  • Butler, III, 489-93.
  • The material in the Acta Sanctorum (January vol. 1, 549-64) includes the entirety of Bernardo Giustiniani's vita of his uncle Lorenzo.


1 Butler, III, 492. Tavano, 34, 45-52.