April 10, 2014

Madonna Nikopeia

This week's PhotoHunt theme is "stones."

Here's a Venetian mystery concerning precious stones and a beautiful icon of the Madonna.

The Madonna Nikopeia can be found in the Basilica di San Marco. The Venetians love her and even when the Basilica is filled with tourists and seems more like a museum than a church, you will see people praying to the Nikopeia in her chapel to the left of the high altar where St. Mark lies. I always visit her soon after I arrive in Venice - she's one of my favorite things in that city.

She came to Venice in 1204 as one of the many treasures the Venetians stole from Constantinople when they sacked that city during the infamous Fourth Crusade. Even before she arrived in Venice, she was believed to work miracles and was much revered by the Byzantines who would carry her along as they marched into battle (Nikopeia means "bringer of victory"; it's sometimes spelled Nicopeia or Nikopoeia).

Legend has it that she was painted by St. Luke.

Jan Morris wrote,

"the Nikopeia, the most holy prize of empire. If she served the Byzantine emperors well and long, she served the Venetian Republic better and longer. The Venetians adopted her, like the Byzantines, as their Madonna of Victory; before her image supplicatory masses were held at the beginning of wars, masses of thanksgiving after victories."

For several years, I wondered about her jewelry and its story. The phote below shows what she looks like today. There are precious stones embedded in the frame around the icon, but none on the icon itself.


Madonna Nikopeia


But up until about 1980 or so, she looked like this (the image was adorned with many gem stones and pearls, votive offerings from Venetians whose prayers she had answered).

What is that large blue stone above her head? Gorgeous! It looks like she's wearing a diamond necklace and even Baby Jesus has a necklace.


Madonna Nikopeia


At some point, the jewelry was removed from the icon and moved into the Basilica's Treasury where it is on display. Behind plexiglass, unfortunately for photographers!


Madonna Nikopeia

Why did they remove the jewelry? It was a mystery to me, but not long ago I might have found the answer while reading Jan Morris' "The Venetian Empire - A Sea Voyage".

Morris writes that in 1979, the Nikopeia's jewels were stolen by two young Italians (from the mainland, not from Venice) who managed to hide at closing time and get themselves locked inside the church overnight. They rushed out the door with the gem stones when the Basilica opened the next morning.

The thieves were later caught and the jewels were returned. My guess is that the Basilica decided to move them into the Treasury for safe keeping instead of returning them to the icon. And they must have restored the icon which was probably damaged when the jewelry was removed.

Jan Morris also shares a great personal story about the theft:

"I happened to be in Venice on the day of the theft and went along to the Basilica to attend the Mass of repentance and supplication that the Patriarch immediately held. Never was history so poignantly played out. A profound sense of sadness filled the fane, nuns sighed and priests blew their noses heavily, as they mourned the desecration of that particularly cherished piece of stolen property."

Madonna Nikopeia


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

April 4, 2014

PhotoHunt: Rocks

Rocks line the canal on the beautiful island of Torcello~

Torcello


Another view. The handpainted sign says "Rio Chiuso" (canal closed). I think there was some maintenance or repair work going on.


Torcello

Also on Torcello, one of my favorite shrines. The Madonna is standing in a rock garden. The plants look like hens and chicks (that's what we call them here in the USA, not sure what the Venetians call them). They look happy growing in the rocks.


Torcello


The same shrine, two years later. The blue paint has faded, but the plants in the rock garden are doing fine (the hens have had some chicks).


Torcello


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

March 29, 2014

PhotoHunt: Trees

There aren't a lot of trees in Venice, but there are more than you might expect. Here are a few.

A sweet little tree next to a vera da pozzo~


trees in Venice


A sculpture surrounded by trees. Not sure who this guy is (he looks like he's doing calisthenics)~


trees in Venice


Several trees plus the bell tower of San Vidal.
This one was taken from a vaporetto going down the Grand Canal~


San Vidal


And here's my favorite. One of my walking tour guide books mentions in passing that "at the 17th century Palazzo Surian, a tree can be seen sticking out from a window."

Yes, it can but why? Another Venetian mystery!


trees in Venice


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

March 6, 2014

Two More Reliefs

Earlier this year, I wrote about Campo Do Pozzi and showed a photo of the relief on the side of the vera da pozzo (well head) that shows two wells.

There are a couple of other reliefs on that same well. There's something poignant about these weather-beaten saints (and I learned their identities from one of my books; I didn't recognize them on sight).

Both of these images are related to churches in parishes close to Campo Do Pozzi. The church of San Martino is still standing, but Santa Ternita was demolished in the 19th century. I've started looking for info about Santa Ternita and hope to do a post about that church soon. :)

San Martino

Campo Do Pozzo


Three Angels symbolizing the Holy Trinity (Santa Ternita)


Campo San Pozzo

March 1, 2014

PhotoHunt: Steps

There are so many steps in Venice (all those bridges!), but I didn't have a lot of photos of them. I did find a few though.

Here are some steps with a wooden barricade at the bottom. Check out all those green plants growing from the stones. Nature prevails!


Venice steps


Steps leading up to some apartments. More green plants here. It's good to live in upper stories in Venice since ground-level apartments can fall victim to acqua alta (flooding).


Venice steps


A set of steps in this photo and also the high rise sidewalks that you walk on when acqua alta rises. Stepping up onto these platforms can be challenging!


Venice steps


These steps look slippery~


Venice steps


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

February 15, 2014

PhotoHunt: Vertical

The campanile of San Marco is the tallest bell tower in Venice and is a strong vertical that's visible from many parts of the city.

San Marco

San Marco

San Marco

San Marco


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

February 8, 2014

PhotoHunt: Water

A charming piece of street art in Venice showing The Baptism of Christ. I love how the artist carved those squiggly lines to represent the water.


Venice


This carving is very small and can be found above the entrance to a home, in between the street number and an electric light.


Venice


A carving of John the Baptist can also be found on this unusual cube-shaped vera da pozzo (well head) in the campo behind the church of San Giovanni in Bragora ~


Venice


And here's a well surrounded by water in a flooded campo. I wasn't able to get close to this one to see if any saints were carved on it.


Venice


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

January 24, 2014

PhotoHunt: Wine

These big glass jugs of wine are familar sights in Italy. I'm not sure what the Italian word for them is, but maybe someone else will know.

The four jugs in the first photo were empty, sitting outside in a campo in Venice. My guess is that someone picked them up and brought them back refilled. When you order the "house wine" in Italy, it often comes from one of these glass jugs (and the glass is protected by the basket surrounding it).

Vino Venice


Here's another one, sitting on a barrel outside Osteria da Alberto (a great place to eat if you're ever in Venice).


Vino Venice


This is a half bottle of wine - nice for when you are dining alone and don't want to get completely sloshed.


Vino Venice


And last but not least, a glass of prosecco. It's light and bubbly and delicious!


Vino Venice

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

January 17, 2014

PhotoHunt: Two

Campo Do Pozzi

"Campo Do Pozzi" translates to a campo with two wells. But as you can see in the photo below, there's only one well there today. What happened to the other one?

(Kudos to the resident of this campo who was trying to stuff his trash into the trash can despite the fact that his neighbors had dumped their trash alongside the well.)


Campo Do Pozzi


But check this out. On the side of the one remaining well, there's a relief that shows two wells! This well dates back to the 16th century, and the fact that they chose to honor the existence of two wells shows us how important wells were back in the day before modern plumbing (a time I can't and don't want to imagine!)~


Campo Do Pozzi


There's a beautiful shrine in this campo too with an image of Titian's Assunta inside~


Campo Do Pozzi


Campo Do Pozzi

Campo Do Pozzi


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

January 10, 2014

PhotoHunt: Time

It's interesting and also a bit odd when artists play with time as Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova did with his sculpture of George Washington. The artist traveled back in time several centuries to present the First U.S. President as an ancient Roman statesman. It's not how I picture George at all!


NC Museum of History


It was also odd to stumble across this Venice - North Carolina connection a few months ago. I found the Canova sculpture in the NC Museum of History (it was labeled as Giorgio Washington, which made me laugh).

I learned that in the early 19th century, the state of North Carolina commissioned Canova to create this sculpture, which was delivered in 1821 and placed in the State Capitol building in Raleigh, NC. Unfortunately, its life was short; the sculpture was destroyed by fire in 1831.

Then in 1910, Italy gave North Carolina a plaster replica of the destroyed sculpture and that's what you see in these photos I took in the museum in Raleigh.


NC Museum of History


Canova (1757-1822) was born in the Venetian Republic, not in Venice proper but in the mainland town of Possagno. A child prodigy, he was sent to Venice to study sculpture when he was a teenager (he had a studio in the Santo Stefano monastery). He later moved to Rome and traveled all over Europe during his career but returned late in life to Venice where he died in 1822.

From Hugh Honour (The Companion Guide to Venice):

"Canova established himself as the leading sculptor in Italy and before the century was out, he was widely regarded as the greatest that Europe had produced since Antiquity. Popes, emperors, and kings competed for his services and treated him with a deference accorded to no Venetian artist since Titian...while Canova was the last of the great Venetians, he was the first of the international artists of the nineteenth century."

After the fall of Napoleon, Canova used his influence to get the French to return some of the great art they had looted from Italy, including the Horses of San Marco.

The Museo Correr in Venice has a number of Canova's sculptures, and the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari contains his funeral monument (his heart is there but the rest of his body is in the church he designed in Possagno).

This funeral monument was created by Canova's students, based on a design by Canova himself for a never-completed monument to Titian.

More time travel, this time to the 1870's - a couple of vintage images of the Canova monument in the Frari. The first is a photograph by Carlo Naya, the second an engraving showing 19th century tourists visiting the church.


canova tomb

Canova's Tomb in Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

December 21, 2013

PhotoHunt: Decorations

Happy Holidays!

I love this theme since decorations are so much fun to photograph.

December 12 was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The last time I visited a Catholic church was several years ago in Venice, but I heard that a local church had an amazing altar so I went. Click on the photo for more images - it was beautiful. All fresh flowers, roses and lilies, and the scent was incredible. Though there was a big difference between this altar and the ones I've visited in Italy.....LED candles! I put my donation in the box, pushed a button, and the candle came on. :)


Our Lady of Guadalupe


I have a set on Flickr of some of my favorite holiday decorations, mostly roadside nativity scenes here in NC. Lots of people decorate their yards for the holidays, and if I spot a nativity, I pull over.

Many people have plastic figurines in their yards so this first one is kinda special. Folk art at its best - I can't imagine how long it took to sew and create all these nativity characters.


Roadside Nativity #1


Away in a Manger


But even the store-bought decorations have their special magic, especially at night~


Roadside Nativity #4


I like the black/white simplicity of this one~


roadside nativity #7


And from the sublime to the ridiculous, here is my all-time fave indoor holiday decoration. One of my aunts gave it to me as a gift and every year when I bring it out, I laugh. Cheerleader reindeers with sneakers on...who thought of such a thing?!?


Reindeer


I love Christmas lights, LED or other~


Untitled


And now for a few shots from Venice. First, a glass Christmas tree next to the Basilica di San Marco (sponsored by the Casino di Venezia).

Christmas in Venice


In Venice, you see a lot of these climbing Santas scaling buildings~


Christmas in Venice


And I've posted this one before but it's my fave. The little blue tree in a campo in Venice.

blue christmas

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend. Have a great holiday next week! :)

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

December 19, 2013

Inside Sant'Anna

Thanks again to Vern, a Hoosier in Venice, for sharing his photos and allowing me to post them here.

I wrote about Sant'Anna here; it's a crumbling deconsecrated church in Castello with a fascinating history. Vern noticed that the door was partially open and was able to get a photo of the interior. It's pretty desolate inside; you can barely tell that it was ever a church.


Sant'Anna


Sant'Anna

This church is no longer owned by The Church - it's city property and it's unlikely that the Comune di Venezia has the money to restore this place along with the many other dilapidated palazzi they own. They did restore the adjacent Sant' Anna convent which was turned into housing.

Some photos of the Sant'Anna cloisters are here.

December 7, 2013

PhotoHunt: Glass

Venice has a long history of glass making. In the 13th century, the glass factories were moved to the nearby island of Murano to reduce the risk of fires in Venice proper, and glass making continues on Murano today.

Here's a sweet little street shrine on Murano showing "Madonnina dei Vetrai" (Our Lady of the Glassmakers).


Murano


Murano


Also on Murano, a strange glass sculpture. It looks too fragile to be displayed outside.


Murano


Murano


Another modern glass sculpture in Murano~


Murano

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend. :)

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

December 4, 2013

Inside San Lorenzo

I first wrote about the church of San Lorenzo in 2007. At that time, it was deconsecrated and had been closed for decades, and was best known for being the church that Commissario Guido Brunetti can see from his office window in the Donna Leon series of mystery novels set in Venice. San Lorenzo was also known for its cat condos and the small group of homeless cats who lived there.

Then in 2012, we got the news that San Lorenzo was going to re-open as the Biennale venue for Mexico.

Vern, a Hoosier in Venice, visited the church this fall and sent these photos to me. Thanks so much to him for allowing me to share them on my site. It's fascinating to see the church decoration that remains and also the amount of restoration work that's needed (those big holes in the floor!).

The church was divided by this choir screen with a high altar that faced in two directions so that the nuns could attend Mass but not be seen by the public. Most convent churches had nuns' galleries where the nuns could be hidden upstairs, so San Lorenzo's plan is rather unique.


SLorenzoCenterRoodScreen~^^


#SLorenzoNSideFloor


San Lorenzo NorthFrontNave2


San Lorenzo NorthFrontNave1


San Lorenzo LArch


San Lorenzo Cherub


San Lorenzo CenterRoodScreen~


I was happy to see that the cats are still there! Their shelters have been moved from the porch of the church to the bottom of the steps, adjacent to the former convent which is now a retirement home.


San Lorenzo CatShelter

Coming soon, a look inside another deconsecrated church, Sant'Anna. Thanks Vern!

November 15, 2013

PhotoHunt: Fruit

Clementines are one of my favorite winter fruits. These were for sale on the green grocer barge close to San Barnaba in Venice.


clementines


San Barnaba barge


Also in Venice, a relief with five pomegranates (another favorite fruit in the winter time)~


Venice


I think these are apples or maybe peaches. This relief is in the Rialto Market area of Venice and a few hundred years ago, it was the emblem of the fruit-sellers' guild (Confraternita dei Fruttarioli) whose headquarters were here.


Venice


Persimmons? This was taken in December so it's another winter fruit. The dome in the background belongs to the church of San Rocco.


persimmons

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend. :)

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

About Me

Seven trips to Venice so far and I’ve been inside 79 of the 149 churches. Now blogging about my November 2010 trip, church visits, street shrines, and art in Venice as well as life in the Tar Heel state. Read more

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