Digitisation of the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore

2020 – ongoing

ARCHiVe started the large-scale digital recording of the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Intended as the starting point for research, educational, and preservation projects, this ambitious challenge has already proven valuable for the development of accessibility tools and academic research.

Tonal map image of the Island © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Point-cloud render of the Island © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
3D render of the façade of San Giorgio Maggiore Church © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Point-cloud render of the Longhena staircase © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Render of the Longhena staircase © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
3D render of the Longhena staircase © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Point-cloud of the cloister of San Giorgio Maggiore © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Tonal map image of the Island © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe

the project

ARCHiVe has collaborated since the beginning with Cini’s Research Institutes and Centres, providing working tools and know-how for proper digital acquisition and documents management.

From July 2020, a team from Factum Foundation spent twelve days in Venice recording the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, focusing especially on the monumental areas, and documenting the conservation state of the buildings. After the acqua alta of November 2019 reached the highest recorded level in fifty years, ARCHiVe’s aim of efficiently and effectively aiding the preservation of Venice’s fragile cultural heritage acquired a new note of urgency.

This ARCHiVe project, linked with EPFL’s Venice Time Machine, involved the collaboration of the three partners.

During January 2022 the team from Factum Foundation continued with the large-scale digitisation of the Island recording the Teatro Verde and the Vatican Chapels in the woods of Fondazione Giorgio Cini.


The aim of the project is to demonstrate that technologies such as aerial and ground-based photogrammetry and LiDAR recording could eventually be employed to digitally acquire the whole of Venice or other cities, both for preservation and enhancement purposes.



1. Recording the monumental area of San Giorgio Maggiore in 2020

The first day saw the recording of the interior of the Palladian church, the apse and the inside of the bell tower, while the following days were dedicated to the exterior of the church and the crypt.

The island was then recorded from more than 600 different recording spots, from which a massive 60,000 million-point cloud was generated.

2. LiDAR recording in 2020

Buildings and spaces recorded with LiDAR 3D scanning in 2020:

Main docks, Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore (interior and crypt), Conclave, Campanile, Chiostro Palladiano, Scala di Longhena, Presidenza of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Cenacolo Palladiano, Sala delle Fotografie, Chiostro Cipressi, Sala Carnelutti, Manica Lunga, Sale Convitto (exterior), Sala Arazzi, Padiglione Capriate, Piscina, ARCHiVe (first floor), Auditorium Lo Squero.

3. Photogrammetry recording in 2020

Architecture, sculptures and art pieces recorded with photogrammetry in 2020:

Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore (facade elements as niche sculptures, shield, text, and interiors elements as altar, choir seating, lectern), Chiostro Palladiano (North and West wall), Scalone Monumentale del Longhena (including the niche sculptures and the ground floor ling), the Well of the Chiostro dei Cipressi, Majolica vases in the Secretary General’s offices, sculptures in the gardens (including Ezra Pound’s head sculpted by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska), Il sogno di Giacobbe by Valentin Lefèvre, Manica Lunga, Sala del Soffitto.

4. Recording the Vatican Chapels and Teatro Verde in 2022

The team spent two days recording the Vatican Chapels, inside, outside and from above.
After the first 3D recording carried out in January 2022 (using LiDAR and aerial drone-based photogrammetry), a second 3D recording of the Teatro Verde was carried out in June 2022 to fill in missing data and to enable a better integration of the LiDAR and photogrammetry, but with the main intent of including the Vatican Chapels into the recording of the entire island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Factum Foundation team digitised not only the entire area of the open-air amphitheatre (1,400 square metres with a seating capacity of 1,500 people), but also part of the understage area (12 individual dressing rooms, 8 rooms for minor actors or choirs, deposits and storerooms for equipment).

5. Post-processing and results

The majority of the post processing is completed and a 3D model of the whole Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice is being prepared.

The creation of virtual tours or interactive viewers based on this data will improve remote accessibility and prove valuable for didactic purposes.


The technologies used were: LiDAR scanning (using a Leica RTC360), Ground-based photogrammetry (using a Sony A7Riv camera), Drone DJI Air 2S.

LiDAR 3D Scanning

LiDAR is a 3D recording method that uses laser pulses to measure distance. It produces a 'point cloud' of xyz coordinates, which can be turned into a 3D model. LiDAR complements other recording method[...]


Photogrammetry is a 3D recording technique that uses 2D images to create a digital 3D model of an object or surface. It involves taking hundreds of overlapping photographs and processing them using sp[...]