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.
It’s a very cool place. But I wonder what happened to Giovanna’s original painting? The two paintings of the Madonna that are inside today both look fairly modern and are smaller than their frames.
This red stone on the floor indicates the place where the plague was stopped - it went no further into the neighborhood. Is it good or bad luck to step on this stone?!?