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Ss. Cosma e Damiano

Ss. Cosma e Damiano

A Renaissance church and convent dedicated to two doctor saints, this church was founded in 1481 by Benedictine nuns from Murano and Mazzorbo, who thought that their convents were too lax and decided to start their own with stricter rules. The saints in question were twin brothers who practiced the healing arts in the 3rd century and would not accept payment for their services. These brothers are among the many “plague saints” who became popular in Europe during the regular and terrifying outbreaks of the Black Death. The relics of these saints are in nearby San Giorgio Maggiore along with many other places in Europe.

Other plague saints include San Sebastiano, San Giobbe, and San Rocco, all three of whom have a church in Venice dedicated to them. The most famous "plague" churches in Venice are Redentore and Santa Maria della Salute.

The doctor saints are depicted in these sweet little reliefs at the entrance to the church; the first one is San Cosma and the second San Damiano.

Ss. Cosma e Damiano

Ss. Cosma e Damiano

A number of noble families were buried here, and the church amassed a nice art collection including two paintings by Tiepolo which are now in the Accademia.

In 1806, the religious complex was suppressed, the church deconsecrated, the nuns moved to San Zaccaria, and the convent became barracks first and then later a hospice for cholera victims. In 1887, the complex was sold to a textile manufacturer and turned into a factory. Today it’s city property, recently restored, and the convent and cloisters are used for art exhibits and other community events.

There's a book about this church - "Nuns and Reform Art in Early Modern Venice" by Benjamin Paul.

Speaking of art and Giudecca, earlier this year I posted about some cool modern murals on Sacca Fisola. I didn't know anything about them, so I was happy to get a comment recently from an artist in Venice named Elena who told me that the murals were painted in the 1980's by well-known artists under the auspices of an organization called Fondazione Bevilaqua La Masa. And this summer, Elena has been part of an art show at the Cosma e Damiano cloisters. I appreciate her taking the time to comment!

Ss. Cosma e Damiano

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Comments (2)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, I enjoyed reading about the two doctor saints. Seems like they were very dedicated and it's cool how their work is honored and remembered. Thank you for sharing.


Lovely reliefs and interesting links, Annie! The mythology around plague outbreaks is fascinating, and I feel as if it's more obvious in Venice than other cities. I don't know if I could find facts to back that up, and maybe it's simply because of Venice's churches and chapels dedicated to plague saints (plus that scary plague doctor's mask!)

But because it was a port city, like London, perhaps Venice did get more than its fair share of outbreaks.

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