Water Damages Titian Painting During a Fire In Venice


On the evening of August 29th, 2010, at 10 p.m., a fire ignited at the roof level of a building adjacent to the Venice Salute Church, creating a harrowing scene near the iconic landmark. The origin of the fire raised suspicions of arson, as witnesses reported hearing two explosions, and the fire initiated from two distinct points, swiftly engulfing the roof of the church.

Responding to the emergency, firefighters deployed copious amounts of water to contain the blaze, strategically preventing the potential collapse of the church’s room roofs. The intense effort succeeded, and within a few hours, the fire was successfully extinguished.

Image of the Venice Salute Church by Canaletto – Google Cultural Institute, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21880508

The morning following the incident, attention turned to the preservation of cultural treasures within the church. The renowned Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) painting, “Davide and Goliath,” housed in a room directly linked to the church’s main hall, was promptly relocated to mitigate potential damage caused by the water used during firefighting operations.

The Tiziano Vecellio’s damaged painting David and Goliath (Tiziano Vecellio – [1], Pubblico dominio, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10061322

The architectural significance of the Santa Maria della Salute Church’s threatened roof added a layer of urgency to the firefighting efforts, given its status as one of the most remarkable structures in Venice.

Notably, recent advancements in firefighting techniques saw the use of water from the city’s modern fire hydrant system. This water, considerably less aggressive than the lagoon water employed in earlier years, played a crucial role in minimizing damage to the priceless painting, exemplifying the evolving methods employed in safeguarding cultural heritage during emergencies.

The removal of the painting to allow the necessary restoration was particularly complex and was carried out by the Venice firefighters.

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