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.
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 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.
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!
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.
To visit this church:
Open Tuesday-Friday 9:30-11:15
Mass on Sundays at 10:15
The pink vera da pozzo~
The statue of Paolo Sarpi~
The Santa Fosca campanile in a late 19th century painting (Un Canal en Venecia) by Spanish artist Martín Rico y Ortega.
The Santa Fosca angel~