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Going to Mass...

San Marco, side door


A few weeks ago, Girasoli asked me if I go to Mass when I'm in Venice. Thanks to her for this blog topic!

Yes, I do go when I’m there, almost everyday. I’m not Catholic and really, I know very little about Catholicism although I’m learning a lot as I research these churches. I admit that my motives weren’t the highest when I went for the first time – I just wanted to be in the Basilica di San Marco after hours so that I could sit down and take the whole place in without being stuck in that crowded, roped-off “tourist herd” line that runs through that cathedral.

But then I discovered that I really enjoy the service. I like the music and the incense and the part where everyone shakes hands and wishes each other peace. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should be going or not - I always sat on the back row and tried to be invisible, and I never went up for the communion part, thank goodness. Then I found a copy of this “Memo for Tourists” in one of the churches (it's also published on the Patriarch of Venice website) which basically says it’s fine for non-Catholics to attend Mass as long as we act right and are dressed properly, turn off our cell phones, and don’t receive Communion. So I’m more relaxed about going now.

I do have a kinda funny, kinda embarrassing story to tell. One afternoon I went into the Basilica and it seemed that Mass was starting over in the chapel of the Madonna Nikopeia. It wasn’t a time when Mass usually happens, but I thought it might be some special holiday Mass so I went over and joined in. There were lots of people there, all very dressed up. I sat there for probably 10 minutes or so, daydreaming and enjoying the music, and all of a sudden, I looked up at the altar and saw a BRIDE!

Well, I was mortified. It’s supposed to be good luck to see an Italian bride, but I have a feeling that the luck doesn’t happen if you crash the poor girl’s wedding. So I quietly crept out of the chapel and then when I got to the front door of the Basilica, I was locked inside! At that point, I was struggling not to laugh out loud and I know my face was bright red. Fortunately I found a security guard who let me out – he was very nice about it and was laughing at me too.

BSM mosaic detail

There are a couple of churches in Venice with services in English – San Zulian has Mass in English (9:30 am daily) and there are Anglican services at St. George’s, the British church. I’ve never been to either of these because to tell you the truth, I think that one reason I enjoy Mass so much is the fact that I can’t understand a word they are saying so it ends up being a non-verbal experience for me. It’s sacred but it’s more personal, if that makes any sense. I love these churches so much, of course, and I just think the entire ritual is very beautiful. Would I enjoy it as much if I were in a modern American church with a priest speaking English? Probably not but maybe I should give it a try sometime.

Most of the time, I go to Mass in the Basilica because it’s my favorite building in the world, but I’ve been to a few other places too. In December, I went to a Sunday evening Mass in the Frari that was great fun – it was so wonderful to sit in front of that Titian for an hour, plus the Frari has this young, hip, and handsome priest with great vibes; I really liked him a lot. I went to Mass in the Scalzi one night and that was nice too – there was a singer and the acoustics were just amazing in that church. And I love to pop into some of the smaller parish churches like San Canciano where it's usually just a handful of neighborhood ladies, the priest, and me. There are a bunch of other places that I’d like to go – I want to hear the Gregorian chants at San Giorgio Maggiore some time, and Latin Mass at San Simeon Piccolo, and on and on.

I’ve got another brochure from the Patriarch office that lists the Mass schedules for all active churches in Venice. Some churches only celebrate Mass on Sundays while others have daily schedules. Of the 150 churches in Venice, 83 still celebrate Mass on a regular basis. 68 of these are in the historic center, and the rest are on the lagoon islands.

Now this doesn’t mean that all of the other churches are deconsecrated, it just means that they don’t have Mass regularly. Some churches are open to visitors year-round but only celebrate Mass a few times a year. Mass is also celebrated at a few non-church locations like the San Lorenzo home for the elderly next door to the mysteriously closed church.

This Mass schedule doesn’t seem to be published on the web anywhere so if there’s a church you’re interested in, leave me a comment and I’ll give you its schedule.

Oh, and about the photo at the top. If you want to go to Mass in the Basilica, you don’t have to stand in line in front with the crowds, you just go to that door on the left side of the church (from the Piazzetta dei Leoncini) and tell the guy you are going to Mass. He’ll let you right in. This beautiful entrance is a late 13th century work called "Porta dei Fiori."

They celebrate Mass seven times a day in the Basilica (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, Noon, and 6:45) on weekdays. The Sunday schedule is slightly different; here it is on the official website. I’ve never made it to one of the early morning services, but I really like the Noon one because the lights are always on and you can see the mosaics so well, but sometimes the tourists tromping through are kinda loud. The 6:45 evening Mass is nice because the place is closed.

Thanks Girasoli for the question...I didn't realize the answer would be so long!

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Comments (21)

sandrac:

Annie, crashing a wedding Mass is hilarious. I can just imagine you trying to escape! I also like to wander into Mass wherever I find one being celebrated when I'm in Italy. I am a Catholic but I must confess that at home, it seems a bit of a chore and I probably don't get to Mass more than a couple times a year. But I love the ritual and in Italy, when Mass is celebrated in Latin and in such beautiful settings, it seems to touch me so much more deeply.

The photo of the side door at San Marco is lovely -- I had seen signs at the front of San Marco directing Mass attendees around to the left side but I had no idea that the entrance was so glorious.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, the wedding story was so funny. And then to be locked in. I hope you were able to finally burst out into laughter as soon as you were out of hearing range from the wedding guests? :)

I think there is something very special about attending mass in Italy.

Thanks for the great read and for the beautiful photos. Great question girasoli.

Wow, I guess I have really been in a daze these days! I don't even remember asking you this question although I thoroughly enjoyed the answer.

I have sat through a parts of masses (always seem to arrive late) in Rome at a few churces, including St. Peter's Basilica and have attended a special service at night in Bergamo. I also enjoy the mass being in Italian and love the music. For some reason it feels much more spiritual and I feel more religious in Italy than here at home where I have not attended mass in years.

Your wedding mass story is funny. I can see you quietly trying to find the exit. I once witness a special mass in Palermo; it was a renewal of the vows mass for a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary.

I'm Catholic and attend mass every Sunday and holy days of obligation. I love going to mass in Italy because it reminds me of the churches back home which were old and with the traditional cross design. My family's parish in Palermo is small and in need of repair. The priest knows everyone by name and the mass is always solemn. The church I attend at home is a modern building and the mass, depending the time of the day, can be solemn or contemporary.

Mass at the Basilica must be a heavenly experience. :-)

Kim:

Don't feel bad, been there, done that. :D

Thanks everyone for all the great comments!

Sandra, I'm the same way...going to chuch here at home does seem like a chore and I seldom go. Plus I end up getting restless after about 15 minutes of an hour-long service. I went on Xmas Eve only because it was a children's service and my nephews were dressed up like the Wise Men. :) I have several lapsed Catholic friends here in NC, and they think it's hilarious that I actually enjoy going to Mass (but they have never been to Italy!).

Kathy, I did bust out laughing once I finally got out of there! And it was a great story to tell my friends who I met up with later in the day.

Girasoli, me too - I just feel more spiritually "in touch" when I'm in the churches of Venice. That's part of why I'm so obsessed with them. :)

Maria, it IS a heavenly experience! I'm going to write more about it later. And I'm going to google "solemn" vs. "contemporary" Mass. I didn't know there were different kinds - I thought they were all solemn Mass. Interesting.

Kim, thanks! I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one!

Annie, I believe the Mass in Italy would all be solemn but in the USA there are different types. The quiet or solemn Mass with traditional chants, the contemporary which appeals to families with young children and the music is mainstream, the Teen/ Youth Mass with music performed by a young group and the Spanish Mass usually performed by a Hispanic priest with music in Spanish. At my church there's a Saturday vigil children's Mass attended by all children in preparation for Holy Communion.

In many cathedrals in the USA there's also a Latin Mass, usually celebrated early Sunday morning. On most of these Masses they're are deacons and altar boys/girls assisting the priest. A typical Sunday Mass schedule would be solemn Mass at about 8:00am followed by the contemporary at 10:00am, Spanish Mass at noon and Teen Mass at about 6:00pm.

Anne:

Annie, thanks for sharing this with us. I love reading about other people's spiritual path. I plan to attend Mass at least once while I'm in Florence. I won't have a clue what's going on since I'm not Catholic (and don't speak either Latin or Italian!), but I find myself really looking forward to the experience.

I once crashed a wedding in Amalfi. And not only that, I accidentally stepped on the intricate intwined hearts laid out in rice on the steps outside...I was mortified. Hopefully I didn't bring any bad luck with my klutziness!

Chiocciola - interesting article. I had to laugh in a couple places - we've sung "Morning Has Broken" the last 2 Easter Sundays while Val played her guitar!

Was the bride cute? Great story! I know THAT Titian, would love to see it again.
Angie

Chiocciola, very interesting article! I found it amusing to say that Catholics can't sing. I can attest that my voice will never win a talent show but the singing and the Gregorian Chants in the churches of Italy move me every time.

Chiocciola, thanks for that link! Great article - it cracked me up too since my childhood Methodist church used to do "Morning Has Broken" on Easter just like Anne's.

I definitely have NOT seen any nuns playing guitars in the churches of Venice. :)

Maria, thanks for all that info. It's really interesting that churches will mix it up like that. I would have guessed that a church would be all solemn or all contemporary.

Anne, I have to laugh about you stepping on the rice! I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only wedding crasher around.

Angie! Good to hear from you! Hope all is well and that motherhood is lots of fun. Yes, the bride was gorgeous, or at least the back of her very fancy dress was. I didn't stay around long enough to get a really good look!

Girasoli, I really want to hear Gregorian chants; I heard a recording one time but I bet they are even better in person. Those old churches seem to have such amazing acoustics which makes any music sound so rich.

Oh and Sandra, I'm going to add this to my entry but I looked in a book last night and found out that the name of that door is "Porta dei Fiori" - it's 13th century and there's a relief of the Nativity right above the door. I am putting that on my list for my next trip (to get a close-up photo of that relief).

Glad you guys liked the article! I am partial to the guitar and seventies music myself!

Fe Chua:

I would like to take a cruise from Venice. The ship leaves Venice at 5PM on a Saturday. I would like to go to Catholic Mass in the early afternoon on Saturday. Do you know where Mass is celebrated from 12 noon and onwards.

Hi Fe Chua,

I checked the Mass schedule and there aren't a whole lot of options (most churches have Mass in the mornings and/or early evenings but after 5 pm).

There is a 12 Noon Mass in Basilica di San Marco but it is suspended in July and August. Not sure when you will be there but that might work for you. San Marco also has an 11 AM Mass year-round.

Santa Maria della Salute has a daily 4 PM Mass but that might be cutting it close to get to your ship.

Have a nice trip!

KAT:

Thanks so much for doing this, I can't find a Venice daily mass schedule anywhere online. I'd love to have as much of the information as possible, but specifically for Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria della Salute.

Hi KAT,

Santa Maria dei Miracoli only recently started celebrating Mass again. Once a week on Sunday in summer only, 7 pm May 15-Sept. 15

La Salute has a daily Mass at 4 pm (Monday-Friday) and Sunday Mass at 11 am.

The Patriarch of Venice website has recently posted Mass times for some churches (but not for all)...here's a link

http://www.veneziaupt.org/index.php?page=71&news=53&group=centro_storico&subgroup=cannaregio

This link is for San Giobbe and from this page you can go to the sidebar "Info Chiese" and search for other churches by sestiere.

Cheers, Annie

Matthew Blair :

Where did you get the mass schedule for Venice? My wife and I went to mass once at Madonna del Orto an we were hoping to be able to attend mass at Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

Hi Matthew,

The Patriarch of Venice website has posted Mass times for some churches (but not for all)...here's a link

http://www.veneziaupt.org/index.php?page=71&news=53&group=centro_storico&subgroup=cannaregio

This link is for San Giobbe and from this page you can go to the sidebar "Info Chiese" and search for other churches by sestiere.

Cheers, Annie


Here are some Mass Times (for Sundays) at Catholic churches in the Dorsoduro section of Venice.

Chiesa di S. Nicola da Tolentino: Vigil Mass, 7:p.m., Sunday morning,11 a.m., Sunday evening, 6:30 p.m

Chiesa di S. Pantalon, Vigil mass, 6:p.m., Sunday morning, 10 a.m.

Chiesa del SS. Nome di Gesu (Santa Chiara)(Byzantine) 9 a.m., 1:p.m. (in lingua ucraina), 8:p.m.

Richard, thank you!

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