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January 2008 Archives

January 2, 2008

Restoration report

SalutebeehiveIt’s always interesting to check out the ongoing restoration work and see what’s covered and what’s been unveiled. Work is going on right now at three major landmarks: Piazza San Marco, the Salute, and the Accademia. The dome of the Salute looks like some kind of spaceship or alien beehive to me. Strangest scaffolding I’ve ever seen, and I didn’t see any work going on while I was there. I hope it’s really restoration work and not some kind of permanent metal brace to hold that beautiful dome up!

The Accademia, while still open, is completely shrouded with scaffolding and the inside is in a bit of disarray. This is a project I’m very excited about – they are expanding the museum in order to put more of the collection on display; evidently there’s quite a bit of art in storage (250 paintings!) which will be displayed when the work is done.

I feel a bit sorry for people who are visiting Venice for the first time because there’s a lot of work going on in Piazza San Marco and that first breath-taking view of the Basilica just isn’t there right now. There are fences and scaffolding around the flag poles in front, and several sections of the Basilica itself are covered up. And right before I left, they began fencing off the campanile in preparation for restoration work which is supposed to continue until 2009. You can see all the fencing and such on the webcam.

Manin tombIt’s always exciting to see the freshly restored stuff. There’s an unveiled section of the Basilica that I’d never seen before (the part with Daniele Manin’s tomb, see right). The façade of San Zaccaria was draped last year but it’s uncovered now and looks amazing, and the high altar of the Gesuiti is visible now in all its Rococo glory. I finally got to see the Bellini painting in the church of San Giovanni Grisostomo; it was gone for a couple of years while work was going on inside that church. I also saw the recently restored frescoes in the sacristy of San Salvador for the first time, and they are gorgeous!

Continue reading "Restoration report" »

January 8, 2008

Corte de Ca' Sarasina shrine

Castello 1194

sarasinashrinedetailThis is one of the largest and most elaborate shrines I found. It’s in Castello, not far from the church of Sant’ Isepo (San Guiseppe di Castello, dedicated to St. Joseph).

I can’t find any information about its history besides a brief mention in DK’s Eyewitness Venice Top Ten guidebook which says that it’s a memorial shrine dating back to the 1600’s.

Someone certainly is taking very good care of it. Fresh paint, lots of fresh flowers, amazingly clean lace curtains and altar cloths. I wonder who takes care of shrines like this – ladies from the local church, ladies in the neighborhood, anyone who feels inspired?

Another nice detail is the old framed photo hanging on the door that shows women from the past sitting in front of that very shrine sewing or making lace perhaps.

Castello 1194

January 11, 2008

Sotoportego di Corte Nova shrine

Sotoportego Zorzi

I first visited this shrine during my 2006 trip after seeing it mentioned in Michela Scibilia’s restaurant guide (the shrine is right beside Osteria da Dante in Castello, not far from the church of San Lorenzo).

More than a shrine, it’s really like an outdoor chapel - the whole inside of the sotoportego is decorated and there’s a marble altar to the Virgin on each side.

I was very intrigued by it and wanted to know more but couldn’t find information about it anywhere. But then on my 2007 trip, I bought a great new guidebook (Paulo Giordani’s Venice) which has the story, and it’s a good one. It’s another Venetian miracle-working Madonna to add to my ever-growing list.

During the 1630 plague (the same plague that inspired the building of the Santa Maria della Salute church), a woman named Giovanna told her neighbors that their faith in the Madonna would protect them all from the plague. She painted an image of the Madonna with Saints and put it in this sotoportego, and it worked! The residents of this part of Castello remained healthy, and the locals believed that the miraculous power of the Madonna kept the plague from passing through the shrine into their neighborhood.

Locals also believe that the shrine kept their neighborhood safe from WWI bombs and every year on Nov. 21 when the city as a whole honors Santa Maria della Salute at the church, this neighborhood also honors her at this shrine. This is all recorded on this plaque above one of the entrances.

Sotoportego Zorzi

Salute e Pace

Continue reading "Sotoportego di Corte Nova shrine" »

January 12, 2008

Photos from my trip

I'm still going through my photos, sorting and figuring out which I want to print, and getting them named before I forget where I was.

I've put a few on Flickr if you'd like to take a look.

January 15, 2008

Fine Dining

I wrote some restaurant reviews for Slow Travel but wanted to share a few stories about some memorable meals.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from our Slow Trav get-together on the last night of my trip. My memory card had filled up at 4 pm that afternoon (telling me, yes it’s time for you to go home!). That night, I met Cubbies and her husband at La Bitta, and we had such a nice time. They had just arrived in Venice that day, and I was grateful that they were willing to fight their jet lag and meet me for dinner. It was a fun way to end my trip.

I do have photos of some other memorable dining companions, though. One afternoon I was wandering around Dorsoduro when I saw a cat outside a shop, eating tuna off a piece of paper. I get excited every time I see a cat in Venice because they have become so rare. I spoke to him and took a couple of photos, but he pretty much ignored me so I moved on.

Hours later that night, I was having dinner in the back room of Enoteca Osteria San Barnaba and that very same cat walked in! I asked the owner if it was his cat and he said no. He told me that the cat’s name is Mustafa and that he’s just a neighborhood cat who makes the rounds.

Well, Mustafa is a very smart cat because that is an excellent restaurant. It wasn’t long before he made his way to my table and I shared my polpettine with him. Here he is, under the table, waiting for another bite.


And then when we finished dinner, he got in the chair to take a snooze. I was honored to have his company.


BarAngioThis little guy joined me for lunch one afternoon at Bar Angio on the Riva dei Schiavoni. It was one of those glorious winter days when it was sunny and warm enough to eat outside.

He was very well-mannered and didn’t swarm me like those crazy pigeons do; he just hung out and waited patiently for my tramezzini crumbs.

January 18, 2008

San Antonio shrine

green shrine

This lovely green free-standing shrine is dedicated to San Antonio (St. Anthony), and it’s another very well-cared for shrine with a nice painting inside of the saint holding the Christ child. It’s in Cannaregio on the way to Madonna dell’ Orto and has a sign saying it was built in 1668. The vast majority of the shrines in Venice are dedicated to Mary, with St. Anthony a distant second. It makes sense that he’s the next most popular image since he’s a local saint who’s buried in his own church over in Padua.

san antonio


Thanks so much to Leslie for telling me about this book – Shrines: Images of Italian Worship by Frances Mayes and Steven Rothfeld. It’s a beautiful little coffee table book with photos of shrines from all over Italy. It arrived in the mail yesterday and I immediately retired to the couch with it (is there anything better than getting a new book?!). I recognized most all of the Venetian shrines pictured in the book except for another large San Antonio shrine that I’d love to find.

There’s another very cool green shrine in Venice that I haven’t seen except in photos – this one that’s out in the lagoon somewhere. Here’s another great photo of it. Just amazing.

And I also want to see this incredible Madonna and Child that Kathy (trek capri) found. Her photos of Burano are beautiful.

green shrine

January 24, 2008

Church Vibes

Most churches are welcoming and just have good vibes overall; even after looking at the art, you want to linger because it feels good to be there. Sometimes I sit down and just soak up the overall energy, and end up leaving refreshed and restored. Isn’t that what a sanctuary is for? Plus, you can’t underestimate the importance of resting your feet in Venice, and a church is good place to do it.

Some churches actively recruit visitors (the 16 Chorus Pass churches, for example), and even some of the smaller neighborhood churches are very cordial to tourists with helpful signs and brochures in many languages. I visited the church of Ss. Apostoli one evening… music was playing, and the priest came up and introduced himself, thanked me for coming, and told me that he loved Beethoven. That church’s pamphlet describes all the art and then adds this nice little message:

Sister, Brother, now resume your way in peace. May you admire many other beautiful things created by men, but above all may you be a worker for peace, recognizing God's face in every man's face....

Most of the sacristans/attendants in the churches are very kind. On several occasions when I didn’t have coins for the light boxes and I’ve asked them for change, they’ve just turned the lights on for me for free. A very sweet monk in San Giorgio Maggiore let me go upstairs to see their Carpaccio. He didn’t speak any English – I showed him a postcard of the painting, and he smiled with recognition and took me to it. A lovable old lady in San Cassiano took me by the hand and walked me around the church, pointing out the Tintorettos and explaining them to me in a pretty incomprehensible mix of Venetian and English, but I appreciated her time and just kept smiling and nodding. The people who do speak English seem to love to talk about their churches. I had lots of questions about San Salvador, and the wonderful lady docent talked to me for about half an hour and then took me to the closed sacristy to see the recently restored frescoes.

But there are a few churches that don’t seem quite so thrilled about tourists tromping through. San Marcuola, for example, has a bunch of signs in many languages that say, “This is a church. It is NOT a museum or an art gallery, so shut up” or something to that effect, very stern! And the sacristan or attendant would not smile at me and watched me closely to make sure I didn’t deface a painting or something.

And then there’s San Moise, which has this big sign on the door that made me laugh! I tend to speed through the grouchy churches and linger longer in the nice ones.

San Moise

January 28, 2008

A Pile of Pigeons

pigeons sleeping

I saw so many beautiful things on my trip but also saw quite a few strange sights, and this is one of them. Late one night when I was walking through Piazza San Marco, I saw a crowd of people looking at something and went over to check it out. At first, I thought it was a pile of dead pigeon bodies that someone had swept up, but when I got closer, I could see them wriggling and realized that they were roosting to keep warm, just like in March of the Penguins! It was very cold that night, and it made me kind of sad that they didn’t have a better place to sleep than out in the open on the pavement.

I’m on the fence about Venice's pigeons. There are way too many of them, for one, and they are kinda nasty, and their poop is damaging to the buildings. And I don’t want them touching me. One day when I was eating lunch outdoors, a flock of them swarmed me and landed on me; one had the audacity to take a bite of my panini! I didn’t like it at all.

But on the other hand, there’s something goofy and endearing about them. I like to look at them, and some of them are beautifully colored, and I like the sound of their coos and the way they walk. And I especially love watching kids play with them and hearing all the laughter and excitement.

A friend in Venice told me about various unsuccessful attempts to get the population under control. Contraceptives in the birdseed didn’t work, and one time the authorities brought some falcons in, thinking a natural predator might help. Well, the pigeons and the falcons became friends!

San Marco

But they are not predator-free, as I learned in December. One afternoon in the Piazza, I saw a seagull eat a pigeon. I’ll spare you the description and just note that it was mercifully quick. But it kind of upset me, and then I had to think about the fact that “it’s nature” and lots of animals (including me) eat other animals. And it’s not like the pigeons are endangered or anything, but still, something about it made me sad. I don’t like seeing predator/prey footage on nature shows either; I usually close my eyes or change the channel.

On a happier note, here’s my favorite pigeon story from a previous trip (2006, I think). One day I went to Mass in Basilica di San Marco, and an elderly nun came and sat beside me. We were in the Madonna Nicopeia chapel which has an aisle down the middle, and Mass was well underway when a pigeon came strutting down that center aisle, walking straight towards the Madonna and the high altar. The nun and I looked at each other and both got tickled and had to cover our mouths to keep from laughing out loud. The priest just ignored it, and the pigeon took a sharp right at the altar and went somewhere else in the church. It was so funny to almost get rowdy in church with a nun!

January 30, 2008

Angel with Veneto-Byzantine Arch

Byzantine Angel

Another one of my favorite street angels, this one is over the door to Palazzo Contarini del Ferro, not far from the former church of Santa Guistina in Castello.

This page contains all entries posted to Churches in Venice in January 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2007 is the previous archive.

February 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


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