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April 2014 Archives

April 4, 2014

PhotoHunt: Rocks

Rocks line the canal on the beautiful island of Torcello~


Another view. The handpainted sign says "Rio Chiuso" (canal closed). I think there was some maintenance or repair work going on.


Also on Torcello, one of my favorite shrines. The Madonna is standing in a rock garden. The plants look like hens and chicks (that's what we call them here in the USA, not sure what the Venetians call them). They look happy growing in the rocks.


The same shrine, two years later. The blue paint has faded, but the plants in the rock garden are doing fine (the hens have had some chicks).


Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

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

April 10, 2014

Madonna Nikopeia

This week's PhotoHunt theme is "stones."

Here's a Venetian mystery concerning precious stones and a beautiful icon of the Madonna.

The Madonna Nikopeia can be found in the Basilica di San Marco. The Venetians love her and even when the Basilica is filled with tourists and seems more like a museum than a church, you will see people praying to the Nikopeia in her chapel to the left of the high altar where St. Mark lies. I always visit her soon after I arrive in Venice - she's one of my favorite things in that city.

She came to Venice in 1204 as one of the many treasures the Venetians stole from Constantinople when they sacked that city during the infamous Fourth Crusade. Even before she arrived in Venice, she was believed to work miracles and was much revered by the Byzantines who would carry her along as they marched into battle (Nikopeia means "bringer of victory"; it's sometimes spelled Nicopeia or Nikopoeia).

Legend has it that she was painted by St. Luke.

Jan Morris wrote,

"the Nikopeia, the most holy prize of empire. If she served the Byzantine emperors well and long, she served the Venetian Republic better and longer. The Venetians adopted her, like the Byzantines, as their Madonna of Victory; before her image supplicatory masses were held at the beginning of wars, masses of thanksgiving after victories."

For several years, I wondered about her jewelry and its story. The photo below shows what she looks like today. There are precious stones embedded in the frame around the icon, but none on the icon itself.

Madonna Nikopeia

But up until about 1980 or so, she looked like this (the image was adorned with many gem stones and pearls, votive offerings from Venetians whose prayers she had answered).

What is that large blue stone above her head? Gorgeous! It looks like she's wearing a diamond necklace and even Baby Jesus has a necklace.

Madonna Nikopeia

At some point, the jewelry was removed from the icon and moved into the Basilica's Treasury where it is on display. Behind plexiglass, unfortunately for photographers!

Madonna Nikopeia

Why did they remove the jewelry? It was a mystery to me, but not long ago I might have found the answer while reading Jan Morris' "The Venetian Empire - A Sea Voyage".

Morris writes that in 1979, the Nikopeia's jewels were stolen by two young Italians (from the mainland, not from Venice) who managed to hide at closing time and get themselves locked inside the church overnight. They rushed out the door with the gem stones when the Basilica opened the next morning.

The thieves were later caught and the jewels were returned. My guess is that the Basilica decided to move them into the Treasury for safe keeping instead of returning them to the icon. And they must have restored the icon which was probably damaged when the jewelry was removed.

Jan Morris also shares a great personal story about the theft:

"I happened to be in Venice on the day of the theft and went along to the Basilica to attend the Mass of repentance and supplication that the Patriarch immediately held. Never was history so poignantly played out. A profound sense of sadness filled the fane, nuns sighed and priests blew their noses heavily, as they mourned the desecration of that particularly cherished piece of stolen property."

Madonna Nikopeia

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

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

April 18, 2014

Still Life

When I saw this week's PhotoHunt theme, I immediately thought of Tom Robbins' great novel, Still Life with Woodpecker, which begins with a quote from Erica Jong: "There are no such things as still lifes."

I guess it depends on how you define "still" or inanimate. When I think of still life in art, fruit and flowers come to mind. They can't get up and walk around, but they are alive and changing, not really still.

Anyway, here's an interesting painting by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) called "Still Life in a Venetian Landscape." The apples are "still" but the lagoon landscape is not! This was done during the artist's neo-Baroque phase; a couple of his more surrealist paintings are in the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice. I like the colors - you can click on it to see it larger.

Still life in Venetian landscape

I found very few photos I'd taken in Venice that work for this theme. Though I guess technically a street shrine might be called still life? I did find a few more classic still life views.

A basket of pomegranates and squash at a trattoria by a canal~

still life

Still Life with Digital Clock, taken at the B&B where I stayed the last time I was in Venice.

still life

Another scene from the B&B~

still life

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

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

This page contains all entries posted to Churches in Venice in April 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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