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April 2008 Archives

April 1, 2008

And so it goes...

Well, my Tar Heels got hit by a runaway freight train called the Kansas Jayhawks last night. It was pretty ugly, to say the least. We were down by 28 points in the first half and looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. We couldn’t do anything to stop them. A valiant rally in the second half and we cut their lead to 4 points and then ran out of steam. Sigh. Lots of seriously bummed-out UNC fans are now trying to figure out what in the heck happened. I feel bad for our players because they looked so sad on the TV news but overall, to me, it’s just the way college basketball goes - it was Kansas’ night and not ours. And we had an amazing season – won 36 games and only lost 3, who can complain about that?

I’m more sad about the fact that it will be 7 months until the next game. Now we enter the part of the year where we wait to see which, if any, of our players will leave college early and head for the NBA. I think all of our guys will be back but I’m an optimist and really, who can blame them for moving on to become instant millionaires instead of playing for free?

In happier news from North Carolina, it’s been raining here for about a week. For the past year, we’ve been in an emergency drought situation that’s been pretty scary – at one point, we had less than a month of water left – and it’s so good to get all this rain and see the lake levels rise. Keep it coming.

April 3, 2008

Shrine in campo San Basegio


A sweet little shrine in Dorsoduro. This one is in campo San Basegio, not far from the Zattere. I love the purple stone framing this shrine.

There used to be a church in this campo - San Basilio, a 9th century church dedicated to St. Basil. It's gone (demolished in 1824) but the shrine remains.

campo de san basegio

April 5, 2008

San Giovanni Elemosinario

San Giovanni Elemosinario

A hidden Rialto market church with a Titian on the high altar.

San Giovanni Elemosinario (St. John the Almsgiver or Almoner) is a Byzantine saint more commonly honored by the Orthodox rather than the Catholic church. A wealthy 7th century Patriarch of Alexandria known for his generosity to the poor, he’s an unusual saint in that he was married, lived to be an old man, and died of natural causes rather than martyrdom.

No one is sure how old this church is - its campanile collapsed in 1071, so it had probably been around for a few centuries before then. The great Rialto fire of 1514 destroyed the church along with the surrounding market area; this fire occurred on a particularly cold night when the canals and wells were frozen, making fire fighting impossible. Scarpagnino (who also built the Scuola di San Rocco) was hired by the Republic to get the Rialto back in business as quickly as possible, and he probably rebuilt this church along with the entire area.

This church was closed for the last several decades of the 20th century and re-opened in 2002, at which time its Titian was returned from the Accademia.

San Giovanni Elemosinario

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April 6, 2008

Shrine with electric light

Some of these shrines have an electric light inside which gives them a cool glow from a distance but you have to get very close in order to see who is inside. I love the brick wall with peeling stucco behind this shrine and the Byzantine Madonna inside.

Cannaregio 1763

Cannaregio 1763

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April 8, 2008

Le Eremite


This pretty little pink church faces a quiet canal in Dorsoduro. It was founded along with a convent in 1693 by a group of Augustinian nuns from the nearby church of San Trovaso. Its full name is Gesu, Guiseppe e Maria delle Eremite (Jesus, Joseph, and Mary of the Hermits), and “hermits” in this case is a reference to nuns who lived lives of complete seclusion and prayer, often in small cells inside churches.

The church and convent were closed by the French in 1810 and then taken over in 1863 by Canossian nuns, an order that educates young women. Today this order runs a teacher training college in the former convent with 90 rooms for female university students.

Le Eremite

I’d love to see the inside of this church – various books report that the interior is richly decorated and quite a contrast from the simple facade. It’s one of those churches made for nuns, with a high altar that separates the public part of the church from the section where the nuns could come to church but remain unseen. There’s a photo of the church’s very ornate ceiling on the Canossian order’s website. The church has a large 15th century gilded wood relief of the Madonna della Misericordia. I found a photo of it on the web~


It’s currently closed for restoration – the upper window is covered with plastic, and you can also see the water seeping up the façade. A brief mention on the UNESCO website says, “The Church of the Eremite took another small step towards being able to reopen with the completed restoration of four wall paintings depicting the Miracles of St. Augustine by Francesco Pittoni with finance being provided by the Venice in Peril fund.” That “small step” was in 2002, and I don’t know what’s happened since then. Maybe this one will reopen in my lifetime!

Le Eremite

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April 10, 2008

Leaning Tower of San Pietro di Castello


This is one of the most beautiful campanili in Venice. The leaning tower in Pisa is more famous but Venice has more than one that's a bit wonky. In all honesty, nothing in Venice looks particularly straight but there are at least four other church towers with fairly dramatic tilts: Santo Stefano, San Martino (on Burano), San Pietro Martire (on Murano), and San Giorgio dei Greci (this one had some work a few years ago and is a bit more upright than it used to be, I think).

The San Pietro campanile was the first Renaissance bell tower in Venice, built in 1463-64, and was the third one built for this ancient church.

The first tower, built in 774, collapsed after an 1120 fire. The second was destroyed in a storm in 1442. And even this one has undergone repairs several times after being hit by lightning and damaged in storms. This tower is completely clad in slabs of Istrian stone, and it’s the weight of those slabs that causes it to lean. It’s a beauty.

A Venetian Bestiary


Jan Morris’ The World of Venice was one of the first books I read about Venice, and it remains one of my all-time favorites. Beautifully written and packed with detail, it captures the spirit of the city in all its magical and glorious strangeness. Plus, Morris did quirky things like go through the modern phone book to see how many of the Doges’ names are still in use; I love trivia like that!

(Answer: There were 120 doges between the years 697 and 1797 with 67 different last names (the job tended to run in families). In 1960 when her book was published, Morris found 39 of the names in the phone book. She did add the caveat that some might be descendents of servants rather than of the doges themselves).

Morris wrote another book, A Venetian Bestiary, in 1982. It’s a charming book about the animals of Venice, both real and imaginary. So there are the actual animals (pigeons, cats and dogs, sea birds, and strange sea creatures for sale in the Rialto Market), and also animals depicted in art like all the many lions, the four horses of San Marco, San Teodoro’s crocodile, Carpaccio’s little dog, the horse on the porch of Peggy Guggenheim’s house, and all the various dragons and monsters scattered all over the city.

VenetianBestiaryThe book was out of print for some time (I found a used copy on Amazon). Then in December, I saw a new edition in several bookshops in Venice. But buyer beware – this new edition doesn’t have any pictures! My copy has lots of color photos and reproductions of paintings, so I recommend looking for a used copy if you’re interested. Here’s what the cover of my copy looks like. It’s a wonderful book.

A note about the photo at the top: I took a picture of every cat I saw in Venice because they are so rare. The city is so filled with cute dogs that I just couldn’t give the dogs equal time, and instead I took only one dog's photo (it’s very representative of the level of canine cuteness you see all over town).

April 12, 2008


Interesting neighbors! You can find this shrine in Corte Nova in Castello, not far from Via Garibaldi.

Castello 2061 A

Castello 2061 A

April 14, 2008

Interior of Gesuiti

This is the church with all the marble that looks like brocade fabric - I wrote about this one a few weeks ago here. This late 19th century colorized photo of the interior looks pretty cool.


Also worth checking out on Venice Daily Photo is this gorgeous aerial photo of the Basilica.

And Jill (softdrink) has some wonderful photos of churches in South Carolina and Georgia on her blog.

A new addition to my birdfeeder list except it's not a bird. When I got up this morning and went in the kitchen to make coffee, I looked out the window and saw an enormous possum in my feeder! What freaky creatures they are - I'd never seen one so up-close.

April 16, 2008

Santa Maria della Fava

Santa Maria della Fava

I love the way the Venetians give nicknames to their churches. The real name of this church is Santa Maria della Consolazione but no one ever calls it that – it's known instead by its charming nickname which translates to Our Lady of the Fava Bean.

And there are stories galore about how the church got that name….a local family named Fava, the fact that beans used to be unloaded from a barge in the nearby canal, a pastry shop close by that sold cookies shaped like fava beans on All Soul’s Day. Some say it’s named for the nearby bridge and canal (boring!). One of the best stories is about a smuggler who was hiding salt in a bag of dried beans and was caught by the police who were getting ready to search his bags. He said a quick but heartfelt prayer to the miracle-working Madonna on the wall and his smuggled salt disappeared, leaving only the beans and he went free.

And yes, this church has a miracle-working Madonna too. This is one that just appeared out of nowhere on the wall of Ca' Dolce and began working miracles, saving smugglers from prison, etc. So a group of devotees bought the house, removed the image, and built a church to put it in. The first church was very small and was completed in 1500 (around the same time that churches were built for other miracle-working images in town, at the Miracoli and Santa Maria Maggiore). It’s fascinating that there was such a rash of miracles at that particular time in Venice.

Continue reading "Santa Maria della Fava" »

April 18, 2008

San Giorgio Maggiore sunset

San Giorgio Maggiore sunset

I've written about this church here but wanted to share this scene. This was one of those "right place, right time" photos; I'd spent all day exploring the maze in Castello and then ended up out on the Riva just as the sun was going down.

Another view in the day time. I'm still amazed at how many beautiful winter days there were in December.

San Giorgio Maggiore

April 21, 2008

Paolo Veneziano in the Frari


This painting by Paolo Veneziano is in the Chapter Hall of the Frari. From the main sanctuary, walk through the Sacristy (where the great Bellini altarpiece is) and into this Hall which has windows overlooking the former monastery’s cloisters. The painting is over the funeral monument for Doge Francesco Dandolo and shows the Doge and his wife being presented to the Virgin and Child by Saints Francis and Elizabeth. The Christ Child’s hand is raised, blessing the Doge. Painted in 1339, this is probably the first portrait of a Doge that was painted from real life and also might be the oldest painting in Venice that remains “in situ” (in the place for which the artist painted it).

Paolo Veneziano (Paul the Venetian) isn’t the first Venetian artist but he’s the first with a name and a recognizable style. Before him, there were a number of anonymous artists making mosaics, and painting frescoes and icons. He lived from 1290-1362 and was a contemporary of the Tuscan artist Giotto who revolutionized painting a few miles away in Padua.

Paolo’s paintings are colorful with lots of gold and brocade and show elements of both the older Byzantine and the emerging Gothic styles. He was one of the first artists in Venice to paint on panel and make altarpieces and polyptychs instead of painting frescoes right on the church walls. He painted lots of "Madonna and Childs" and "Virgins Enthroneds" as well as crucifixions on panels in the shape of a cross.

Continue reading "Paolo Veneziano in the Frari" »

April 24, 2008

Sant' Agnese

Sant Agnese

This Dorsoduro church has existed since at least the 11th century and has only recently reopened for public Mass. As far as I know, that’s the only way to visit it right now, and I'd really like to see the inside of this one because even though the church has been renovated and restored over the centuries, part of the original Veneto-Byzantine interior remains, as described by James McGregor in Venice From the Ground Up:

“Though it was remodeled in the Middle Ages, the original walls of the nave were never destroyed or covered over. Above the roofs of the side aisles, their wonderful pre-Gothic brickwork – a repeating pattern of steep, cusped arcades in the shape of a cursive “M” – is still visible.”

I’m always amazed by the beautiful things the early Venetians could do with mere brick and I really want to see those arcades.

Sant Agnese

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April 25, 2008

Festa di San Marco


Today (April 25) is San Marco's feast day and for centuries, this day was celebrated by Venetians with grand processions and pageantry in honor of St. Mark. It's still celebrated today, at least in the Basilica, where the Patriarch celebrated Mass at 10:30 this morning in honor of St. Mark the Evangelist and Patron Saint of Venice.

I don't know if there are still any other festivities - I checked the Piazza San Marco webcam this morning, and it looked like a normal rainy spring day in Venice. Checked it again later, and the sun was out, the orchestras were playing, and the scaffolding around the campanile looked to be growing.

April 25 is also the Festa del Bocolo (Festival of the Blooming Rose) where it's traditional for Venetian men to give a red rose to all the women they love. That could get expensive for some guys! There are a couple of legends associated with this tradition retold (and charmingly translated) on Venice Explorer.

April 26, 2008

Photo Hunt: Signs!

Girasoli and Leslie introduced me to Photo Hunt, and I decided to join in the fun since I had a couple of photos for this week’s theme: “unique/funny signs.”

HippiesFirst up: I wish I knew the story behind this one but I don’t. I saw it on the side of someone’s van in a parking lot at an art show. It reminds me of that old ‘70’s song by Five Man Electrical Band:

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that. Can't you read the signs?

And I love this one below which is from the door of the church of San Moise in Venice.

San Moise

April 30, 2008

Madonna and Child with St. Peter

Madonna with child giving keys to St. Peter

This beautiful marble tabernacle, showing the Madonna with Child Giving the Keys to St. Peter, is in eastern Castello on Fondamenta Quintavalle, on the way to the church of San Pietro di Castello. It’s an early 15th century work that was recently restored by the California chapter of Save Venice.

It's so wonderful seeing art outdoors as you roam around Venice, and there's actually quite a lot of it all over the city. You could make a case for moving works like this into a museum for protection, but instead, the restoration included adding lead to the roof to protect it from rain. I'm a bit sad that they finally had to move the four horses of San Marco inside, but those things are 2000 years old – it was time for them to get out of the weather, I think.


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

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