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C is for Capitelli

Capitelli is the Italian word for shrines (singular: capitello), one of my favorite things to look for and find as I wander around Venice. Actually, there are several Italian "C" words connected to shrines.

Venice was one of the first cities in the world with an organized plan to light its streets at night. In 1128, the Doge of the Venetian Republic issued a decree that oil lamps in the shrines should be lit each evening at nightfall, a Middle Ages public works project-of-sorts. Venetians called these lamps cesendeli because the small flickering flames reminded them of fireflies (cicendelae). I love to imagine seeing the city when the shrines were the main source of light.

So here are a few capitelli. A shrine is usually a niche or a tabernacle with a sacred image inside. The vast majority of the shrines in Venice are dedicated to the Madonna with San Antonio (St. Anthony) a distant second.

Some of the capitelli are small and simple like this little niche that houses a statue of San Antonio holding the baby Jesus~


Others are larger and more elaborate~


Some of them still have lights inside, electric lights now~

Santa Croce 774

I love the ones with flowers~

Dorsoduro 538

Visit the home of ABC Wednesday to find more Round 10 participants!


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Comments (14)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, I did not know that Venice was the first city in the world with an organized plan to light its streets. And such a wonderful way to do it. Your photo collection of shrines are so beautiful. I love them all. I too wonder what it was like being guided through the darkness by these lit up shrines in Venice way back when. Awesome!

Thanks so much for sharing. Have a great week.

this is something new I learned, thanks for sharing.

Crystal Palace & Carousel
Chubskulit, ABC Wednesday Team

Beautiful photos! I also enjoy reading the information.

Even though these are simple and small, they look great.

Beautiful choices of capitelli. I like them all but the first is my favorite. There's something appealing to me about the simplest shrines. Carver, ABC-W Team

I so love how they show their devotions. In the Philippines we have it inside our house, and those rich people who has a huge front yard they put it like a shrine or grotto in their garden. Thanks for sharing the information I like it.

Letter C

Love these shrines - CLASSY!

ROG, ABC Wednesday team


How magical Venice must have looked with the flickering of cesendeli. Shadows and light.


According Ackroyd [Venice Pure City p231] Venice was the first city [in the world] to have street lamps in 1732. London had them in 1736.
These would have been oil lamps, and presumably a bit brighter than the lamps in the capitelli.
Venice was (I believe) also the first city to ban torture to extract confessions.


These are beautiful! I've seen similar ones in other areas of Italy, but have yet to visit Venice!

abcw team

What a wonderful post! I too learned a lot. I especially love the Venetians' comparison of the flickering gas flames to fireflies!

My favorite shrines on this post are the first one ~ I love how it's embedded in the corner of the building and contrasts so beautifully with the reddish wall (I also love that tree!) ~ and the illuminated one, because I love that beautiful metal grate over it.

My grandfather came from a little village near Pisa, and I've always wanted to go to Italy. I'm most interested in visiting Tuscany and Umbria, but you may have just convinced me to add Venice to my list!

Thank you for visiting my blog this morning so I could discover yours! :-)


Fascinating entry, Annie. You find the most wonderful corners of Venice to share with us - thanks! Really like the niche with the Antonio/bambino shrine.


These remind me of the spirit houses that people have in their front yards in Thailand. Must have been lovely to see the streets lit with lamps from these shrines.


Beautiful pictures and good information. thanks for sharing and visiting my blog.

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