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.
St. Agnes was a virgin martyr who is a saint for both the Catholic and the Orthodox faiths and in the Middle Ages, the feast of St. Agnes was a major holiday lasting for two weeks. There was once a small convent attached to this church, and it was traditional for the nuns to adopt six orphan girls and raise them to adulthood, which fits since St. Agnes is the patron saint of young girls and (today) of the Girl Scouts.
In 1810, the church was suppressed and closed by the French who stripped it of its art. One of its major works was Michele Giambono’s Coronation of the Virgin which is now in the Accademia.
The church was used as a lumber and coal warehouse for a while and then taken over as an oratory by a private school in 1854. It closed again in 1866 when an artesian well exploded, damaging the church and causing the ground around it to subside. More restoration work and it eventually reopened as an oratory.
There’s now a Roman-style bell tower on the site of the original free-standing campanile which was demolished in 1837. The church used to face a canal that connected the Grand Canal to the Guidecca canal but in 1863, it was filled in. The little campo next to the church is quite lovely with some trees and park benches.
Mass on Sundays at 8:30 AM (Note: in November 2010, there was a sign on the door that said "mass suspended." I don't know if it was suspended for winter or because of the construction going on in the campo. Or perhaps it's suspended forever? Dunno).
The shrine on the bright orange wall to the left of this church. Love those roses.