I was so charmed by this place when I first saw it on my way to the Guggenheim museum during my first trip to Venice. So cute and I love those stripes! San Vio is a lovely little campo and one of the very few with a Grand Canal view – the red park benches are a nice (and free) place to sit, rest your feet, and watch the world go by on the canal.
This church was founded in 912 and it's another church with a nickname – San Vio is short for Santi Vito e Modesto, a couple of Sicilian saints. In 1310, there was an attempt to overthrow the Venetian government, and the rebels were squashed on June 15, St. Vito’s feast day, and so the Republic rebuilt and expanded this church to honor and express gratitude to the saint. Decorative elements from the defeated rebel Bajamonte Tiepolo’s palazzo were removed and used to decorate the façade of the church. And every year on June 15 for the next 400-plus years, the Doge and the Senate visited this church in a grand processional parade to thank the saint some more.
In De Barbari’s map, the church is quite large with a free-standing campanile towering above it. Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera lived near this campo and was buried in the church in 1757. There was a convent too which was suppressed and closed along with the church in 1808.
The church was demolished in 1813 but then the small church we see today was built, re-using materials and those same decorative elements (reliefs and a cross) from the previous church. San Vio reopened for worship in 1865.
In his 1914 book A Wanderer in Venice, travel writer E.V. Lucas shares this nice little story; it's not the first time we've heard about a woman walking on water on the canals of Venice:
"The tiny church of S. Vio, now closed, which gives the name to the Campo and Rio opposite which we now are, has a pretty history attached to it. It seems that one of the most devoted worshippers in this minute temple was the little Contessa Tagliapietra, whose home was on the other side of the Grand Canal. Her one pleasure was to retire to this church and make her devotions: a habit which so exasperated her father that one day he issued a decree to the gondoliers forbidding them to ferry her across. On arriving at the traghetto and learning this decision, the girl calmly walked over the water, sustained by her purity and piety."
For some time in the 20th century, San Vio was only open one day per year (June 15, of course). Some guidebooks call it a “modern votive chapel” but of course, modern is relative since it's now over 140 years old. Today it’s deconsecrated and is actually part of a private home. Another cool place to live in Venice, huh?
There’s another church in this campo – St. George’s Anglican church, opened by the British in 1926.
Close-up of the ancient decorative elements on San Vio: