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San Vio

San Vio

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."

More about the little Contessa here!

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 the late 19th century.

Close-up of the ancient decorative elements on San Vio:

san vio detail


More Churches:

Churches in Cannaregio
Churches in Castello
Churches in Dorsoduro
Churches in San Marco
Churches in San Polo
Churches in Santa Croce
Churches on the Lagoon Islands

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Comments (10)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, great photos and I really enjoyed learning more about San Vio. The story about Contessa Tagliapietra was really interesting.

Thanks for the great read.


Wow, it's such a lovely little place, I'm surprised it was deconsecrated -- but perhaps too small to sustain as an active church!

I'm always amazed by these stories of miracles, I wonder how they start? Could there really have been a child sustained by her devotion to the extent she could walk on water?Or did people perhaps say she was so devout that nothing, even a canal, would keep her from her prayers. And eventually, that turns into fact, rather than imagery.

But perhaps it doesn't matter, the legend (like Santa Fina in San Gimignano) is so lovely that you want to believe!

Thanks for posting this Annie, beautiful pictures and a great story.


Annie, this was steps away from our first and favorite Venice apartment. I always wondered about it--thanks for your research.

Any details known about current owner or resident?

Hi Kathy, thank you....I love the Contessa story too, and I wrote a sequel after I did more reading about her.

Sandra, I love all these miracle stories/legends too, even though they mystify me as well. The more I read about Venice, the more of these stories I find!

I didn't know about Santa Fina until you mentioned her and then I googled her...that's another great one. I agree, it doesn't matter if they are really true because they are such sweet stories!

Hi Cubbies! Good to hear from you. I've been compiling these articles using about 20-some different books (and some of them are pretty old), but I do have a couple of more recently published books that I bought in Venice this past December. One of these (published in the past five years) says that it's the "unusual home of Piero Pinto", whoever he is - I need to google and find out. Hope you are well and please say hello to Fred!

It is such a cute little church. I just love reading about each church you post.

Beautiful picture and an interesting story! I also love the stripes and there's again the fabulous Venice orange. I'd love to live in a small votive chapel. :-)

You can actually see pictures of the inside in two books:
Venice: Hidden splendors by Cesare M. Cunaccia
and in Living in Venice by Elizabeth Vedrenne ans André Martin, Thames & Hudson, p.160-164

Thanks for the nice website!

AnnaLivia, thank you so much! I'll have to track those books down. I appreciate you sharing the info. And your website looks wonderful!

Thanks Annie! If you need any info or pictures let me know. Do you read French?

Take care,

Hi AnnaLivia,

No, I don't read French but I put your website into that Google translation thing and it worked great! :) I'm looking forward to reading more. Happy blogging!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 5, 2008 1:06 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Going to Mass, part two (Pala d'Oro).

The next post in this blog is Blessed Contessa Tagliapietra.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


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