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Fossils in the floor

San Canciano

Yesterday I wrote about finding fossils in the floor of San Giacomo dall’ Orio.
That was the first church where I saw one and I’ve since spotted them in several other churches. I don’t always remember to look for them (sometimes I get distracted by the art and architecture!) but when I do remember, I almost always find at least one. They are usually embedded in the red marble and look like big swirly shrimp. They are so fascinating to me.

In December, I found fossils in San Canciano (the one in the photo is from that church), Santa Maria Formosa, San Francesco della Vigna, and even in the Salute. I wonder if marble with a fossil in it was more valuable, back in the days when they were building these churches?

There’s just something so satisfying about finding them. It’s the same feeling I’d get as a kid when we’d look for four-leaf clovers out in the yard - it feels lucky! And yes, I realize that I probably look like a dork walking around a magnificent church staring at the floor. :)

Another part of it is that these churches all seem so ancient and holy to me, and they make me think about time (and long passages of time), and then the fossils connect it all back even further to pre-history.

Of course, “ancient” is relative….everything in Venice seems so old to me but I’m coming from the American perspective. Here in the USA, a church or building that’s 100 years old is “historic” while a church the same age in Italy would be considered “modern.” But the fossils are ancient no matter what.

Another thing I look for in every church is a Byzantine icon of the Madonna. Almost every church in Venice has at least one of these. Some of them are famous with legends about miracles and such, but some are just regular old beautiful icons. Even the more “modern" baroque churches usually have an icon somewhere, probably carried over from previous and older incarnations of the church itself. Some of them sit in big fancy altars while others are tucked away in the sacristy, but they are usually around somewhere. They are easier to find than the fossils!

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Comments (6)


I know just what you mean about historical perspective.

Once when family were visiting from England, I was telling them about Citadel Hill in Halifax. I was going on about how old it was (mid-1700's) and suddenly realized that was nothing compared to what they are used to. (It still seems old to me, although far less so after standing amid the Roman Forum!)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

This is so interesting. I had no idea about the fossils. And you found them in Salute also! I wonder if I walked near or around one of them. I went there at least 4 times during my stay, so I could have? You know what, it does look like a shrimp.

Thanks for the great read Annie!


I never thought of looking for fossils in the stone in the floors. Just this will inspire me to go into the next church.

It's one of the things I love about Italy. I live in such a new country - so I love reading about things like this.


You write, "Another thing I look for in every church is a Byzantine icon of the Madonna." Yes; I'm also always on the lookout for icons. One thing that attracts me so much about Venice is it's being a crossroad between East and West. The most striking example of this that I know of is the Salute, the most western of churches (Baroque, no less), with the large Byzantine Madonna centrally located on the main altar. I remember, also, an exquisite Pieta-type icon on a side altar of Cannareggio's Santa Fosca Church.
And if you'll pardon my repetition, you've such a wonderful website. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into it. It's such a good resource for other lovers of Venice.

Hi Marie,


I have a photo of the Salute icon in the post linked above. I love the contrast between her and the ornate Baroque altar she's in.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 13, 2008 1:53 PM.

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