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September 6, 2012

Santa Marta

Santa Marta

This is a strange part of Venice. It’s in the port area, and there are cars over there and even a parking lot right next to this deconsecrated church. I’ve learned that this southwestern tip of Venice has always been unique.

At one time, the Arzere (Embankment) of Santa Marta was connected to the mainland by a peninsula made of silt washed into the lagoon by the River Brenta. This natural bridge was called the Ponte dei Lovi (Bridge of Wolves) because it was overgrown and inhabited by wolves! The Venetians destroyed the Ponte dei Lovi in 1509 during the War of Cambrai to prevent a land attack on the city.

The church of Santa Marta was founded, along with a convent and hospice, in 1315 to house Benedictines nuns from the lagoon island of San Lorenzo in Ammiana (an island that’s now completely underwater). The convent was expanded and the church rebuilt in 1468, and that’s the church we see today. It's dedicated to St. Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus.

In the 16th century, the convent was taken over by Augustinian nuns. As far as nuns go, the Santa Marta sisters seem to have lived a quiet life compared to those in other Venetian convents, though “Virgins of Venice” does share the news that in 1594, the Santa Marta nuns got in trouble for staying up all night playing cards with the young girls (not nuns) who were boarding at the convent until they were ready to marry.

Santa Marta

This area was famous for a festa held every summer on Santa Marta’s feast day (June 29) This Dorsoduro neighborhood, from San Nicolo dei Mendicoli to Santa Marta, was working class for the most part, and home to many fisherman. Evidently the Festa di Santa Marta was so much fun (and the fish so delicious) that the Venetian aristocrats would attend the festa too, arriving in boats decorated with twinkling lanterns.

Some think the church created the festa to commemorate the banquet for Christ at St. Martha’s home. But others claim that it began with the local fisherman roasting fresh-caught sole on the beach and when people began coming, the church got involved. Either way, it was a popular celebration that began with a service in the church and then moved outside, a fish fry on the beach with music and dancing. Canaletto was inspired to paint it, one of the few night scenes he ever did; you can see the painting here – La Vigilia di Santa Marta.

I was so excited to read on Sig. Nonloso’s Venezia Blog that the Festa di Santa Marta was revived in the summer of 2012!

Santa Marta

The Santa Marta religious complex was suppressed in 1805. The church building was used by the army to store animal fodder and later became a railway warehouse. The campanile (visible in the Canaletto painting) was demolished in 1910. For much of the 20th century, the church just sat there empty and neglected as the port grew around it, modern housing was built, and the university took over the nearby former cotton mill.

But just recently, the church was transformed into Spazioporto (spaceport), a conference center meeting space that opened in 2007 after a one million, eight hundred Euro restoration funded in part by Venice’s Port Authority.

Click on “foto” on the Spazioporto website to see photos of the interior. It’s pretty cool looking – a shiny modern wooden amphitheater thing but you can still see the church’s old brick walls and wooden ceiling. This space has been used as a venue for the Biennale among other things.

Santa Marta

As you can see, the exterior of the church has been stripped of most all decoration. It’s interesting to look at it and try to figure out what used to be there. It’s also an odd mix of modern and ancient brickwork.

Over the main door, there was a bas relief of Santa Marta protecting some nuns under her cloak, similar to the image of the Madonna della Misericordia which can be found in so many places in Venice.

This relief was relocated to the church of Angelo Raffaele, and I happened to photograph it without knowing what it was at the time (I love it when things like that happen!). Other sculpture from Santa Marta was taken to the church of Sant’Eufemia on Guidecca.

Angelo Raffaele

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September 14, 2012

PhotoHunt: Glass

Venice has been famous for its glass industry for over a thousand years. In 1291, the Venetian Republic decided to move the glass factories to the island of Murano because of the risk of fire. Glass continues to be made and sold on Murano today.


Ss. Giuseppe e S. Teresa


This elegant small oratory is SS. Giuseppe e Teresa, dedicated to saints Joseph and Teresa. It's nestled in the middle of a former convent founded on Murano in 1736. The convent was suppressed and closed in the early 19th century and later became a hospice for the widows and unmarried daughters of Murano's glass-makers (Ospizio Briati, founded by master glass-maker, Giuseppe Briati).


Ss. Giuseppe e S. Teresa


In the mid-19th century when Murano's most famous church was closed for restoration, this little chapel served as the island's parish church until Santa Maria e San Donato reopened.


Ss. Giuseppe e S. Teresa


The former religious complex is now city property. A few years ago, there was some discussion about turning the complex into a hotel, but there was much opposition to that plan, and then the city decided to restore the property so that it can be used as a home for disabled citizens. You can see photos of the cloisters and the interior of SS. Giuseppe e Teresa here.


Ss. Giuseppe e S. Teresa


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

September 19, 2012

San Sebastiano

San Sebastiano

This is a “must see” church, and don’t let the fact that it’s been under-going a comprehensive restoration for many years stop you from visiting. Every time I’ve visited, something new has been unveiled, and the restoration work being done by Save Venice is fantastic. I look forward to the day when all the work is completed, and we can see this church as a whole. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in the Venetian High Renaissance and the work of Veronese, who decorated San Sebastiano with over 50 oil paintings and frescoes.

San Sebastiano

This religious complex was founded in 1393 by monks who were followers of St. Jerome. It began with a monastery, a hospice, and a small oratory dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. In 1455, the oratory was rebuilt, became a church, and was rededicated to St. Sebastian in response to the plague epidemic of 1464.

It’s a mystery as to why they rebuilt the church again only a few decades later but they did, and that’s the church we see today, built in the early 16th century. Shortly after the completion of the church, the monks commissioned a 27-year-old artist from Verona to decorate the sacristy. They were happy with his work, and Veronese continued to paint in San Sebastiano for the next 25 years.

San Sebastiano

Paulo Caliari (Veronese) was born in Verona in 1528 and began his painting career there; he died in Venice in 1588 and is buried in San Sebastiano. There’s a story that he took refuge in the San Sebastiano monastery after killing a rival, perhaps as part of a love triangle, but most sources say that there’s simply no evidence that this story is true. Perhaps a jealous fellow artist started the rumor after the young artist from out of town received this commission? The real reason that Veronese got the San Sebastiano commission might be that the abbot of the monastery at that time was also from Verona. See his paintings in this church and elsewhere here.

San Sebastiano

San Sebastiano is an easy saint to recognize – young, handsome, and half-naked with a bunch of arrows in his chest. This interesting article notes that, in the period from 1450-1530, St. Sebastian was the fifth most popular saint in Venice based on the number of times he appeared in altar paintings in churches (the top four were Mary, John the Baptist, Jerome, and Peter). His popularity can be attributed to his healing abilities. San Sebastiano is one of several Venetian churches dedicated to saints who were believed to be able to offer healing and relief from the plague; other “plague churches” are San Giobbe, Redentore, San Rocco, and Santa Maria della Salute.

San Sebastiano

The campanile is a nice one, and on its side is one of my favorite pieces of bell tower sculpture, an 11th century Byzantine cross with kissing love birds.

San Sebastiano

San Sebastiano is Veronese’s church, for sure, but there’s also a lovely and sweet painting of San Nicolo by Titian in one of the chapels.

There are always things to look forward to seeing in Venice (next time!), and I can’t wait to see the restored ceiling paintings and the early 16th century floor of glazed majolica tiles in the Annunciation Chapel. The San Sebastiano restoration is supposed to be completed next year (2013).

San Sebastiano

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September 28, 2012

Santa Fosca

Santa Fosca


There are two churches in Venice dedicated to this third century teenage virgin martyr saint – the exquisite Byzantine church on the island of Torcello and this former parish church in Cannaregio.


Santa Fosca


This Santa Fosca was founded in the tenth century soon after after the much loved saint’s body arrived in Torcello. The saint was moved from Torcello to this church, probably in the 15th century when Torcello was in full-scale decline. But at some point, Santa Fosca returned to her Torcello church where she resides on the high altar.

The Cannaregio church was rebuilt for the first time in 1297, and in de Barbari’s map of 1500, the church was still Byzantine in style. A tornado caused the campanile to collapse in 1410; it was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1450 and is still there today. The tower is older than the church building, which was completely rebuilt in 1679 after it had become dangerously unstable. In the early 18th century, the church was damaged by fire and restored, and the façade was added in 1741. In 1810, Santa Fosca ceased to be a parish church, and today it’s a daughter church of nearby parish church, San Marcuola.


Santa Fosca


Santa Fosca has paintings by Carl Loth, Domenico Tintoretto (the son, not the father), Pietro Antonio Novelli, and Francesco Migliori. The church is pretty inside, though it could use some TLC (the floor is very worn, and there's peeling stucco on the walls). But the overall vibe of the place is warm.


Santa Fosca


The Festa della Madonna della Salute is always celebrated on November 21 and when I was in Venice in 2010, the 21st fell on a Sunday which meant that the celebration was taking place in other churches as well. I attended morning Mass in Santa Fosca that day; the church was full of people and then after Mass, the Venetian ladies lit tall white candles in front of the church’s beloved Greek icon of the Madonna. It was beautiful!

Santa Fosca

My favorite angel in Venice resides on the apse of this church, and on the side is one of my favorites shrines. There’s a lovely pink Verona marble vera da pozzo in the campiello by the apse. In front of the church is a monument to Fra Paulo Sarpi (1552-1623) who survived an assassination attempt on the bridge next to the church.

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Santa Fosca

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This page contains all entries posted to Churches in Venice in September 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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