Cannaregio Archives

October 19, 2007

The churches of Cannaregio

AgnesThere are 32 churches in this sestiere; most of them are Catholic but there are also an Evangelical Lutheran church and five synagogues.

So many great ones here, including the most beautiful Gothic church in town (Madonna dell’Orto), the most beautiful small church in the world (Santa Maria dei Miracoli), and the most crazy over-the-top Baroque church in the universe (Gesuiti).

There are Tintorettos galore in this sestiere (his Saint Agnes altarpiece from Madonna dell’Orto is on the left) as well as the second most famous relic in Venice (the body of Saint Lucy in San Geremia).

Chorus Pass churches in this sestiere are San Giobbe, Miracoli, and Sant’Alvise.

Churches in Cannaregio

Gesuiti (Santa Maria Assunta)
Madonna dell’Orto
Miracoli (Santa Maria dei Miracoli)
San Bonaventura
San Canciano
San Cristoforo
San Felice
San Geremia (Santi Geremia e Lucia)
San Giobbe
San Giovanni Grisostomo (San Giovanni Crisostomo)
San Girolamo
San Leonardo
San Marcuola (Santi Ermagora e Fortunato)
San Marziale
San Michele in Isola
Santa Caterina
Santa Fosca
Santa Maria dei Penitenti (Le Penitenti)
Santa Maria dei Redentore (Chiesa delle Cappuchine)
Santa Maria Maddalena (La Maddalena)
Santa Maria Valverde (Santa Maria della Misericordia)
Santa Sofia
Santi Apostoli (Ss. Apostoli)
Scalzi (Santa Maria di Nazareth)
Volto Santo (Santa Maria dei Servi)
Scuola dell'Angelo (Chiesa Evangelica Luterana)


Scuola Canton
Scuola Italiana
Scuola Levantina
Scuola Spagnola
Scuola Tedesca


Crociferi (next to Gesuiti)

I have a long wish list for Cannaregio: San Marziale (another church with a miracle-working Madonna statue, this one supposedly traveled to Venice on her/its own power); San Marcuola (the church on the Grand Canal with the unfinished façade, it has one of seven Tintoretto Last Suppers in Venice), and San Michele in Isola (the first Renaissance church in Venice, it’s out on the cemetery island which is traditionally considered to be a part of this sestiere). I also want to visit the synagogues, which you can do on a guided tour that begins at the Museum Ebraico.

At one time, San Marziale had a Titian Tobias and the Angel, but I’ve read that the painting’s been moved to Madonna dell”Orto so I want to check that out since I don’t remember seeing it the last time I was in that church.

Six weeks from today, I’ll be in Venice!

Update, Dec. 2007: Went inside San Marziale and San Marcuola, two of the churches on my wish list above. San Michele in Isola was closed for restoration but I learned that there are actually two churches on the cemetery island; I've added the beautiful San Cristoforo to both the church list and my personal list.

The Titian painting has been moved from San Marziale to Madonna dell' Orto; it's in the second chapel on the right.

Update, Dec. 2008: Found the Evangelical Lutheran church open. San Michele in Isola is still closed for restoration and remains at the top of my wish-list.

Update 11/10. Visited Santa Fosca. Beautiful little church.

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October 29, 2007

Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Miracoli in MayThis is the most famous of a number of churches in Venice that have or had legendary miracle-working paintings, icons, or sculptures of the Madonna. Santa Maria dei Miracoli is named for and was built to house its painting with legendary healing power.

When friends ask me for recommendations about what to see/do in Venice, I vary my answers depending on how long they’re going to be there and what they’re interested in. I realize that not everyone wants to go tromping around Venice looking for churches that probably won’t even be open when they get there! So my short list of “must-see” churches includes only three of them, and Miracoli is on that list (along with the Basilica di San Marco and the Frari).

Even people with no interest in churches should visit this one – for one, because they’ve never seen anything like it, and also because finding it will be an adventure. It took me a long time to find it the first time. There’s no view from afar of this church – you search for it, map in hand, and then all of sudden, it’s right there in front of you, and it’s so surprising and perfect and beautiful. It takes my breath away every time I see it.


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February 13, 2008

Fossils in the floor

San Canciano

Yesterday I wrote about finding fossils in the floor of San Giacomo dall’ Orio.
That was the first church where I saw one and I’ve since spotted them in several other churches. I don’t always remember to look for them (sometimes I get distracted by the art and architecture!) but when I do remember, I almost always find at least one. They are usually embedded in the red marble and look like big swirly shrimp. They are so fascinating to me.

In December, I found fossils in San Canciano (the one in the photo is from that church), Santa Maria Formosa, San Francesco della Vigna, and even in the Salute. I wonder if marble with a fossil in it was more valuable, back in the days when they were building these churches?

There’s just something so satisfying about finding them. It’s the same feeling I’d get as a kid when we’d look for four-leaf clovers out in the yard - it feels lucky! And yes, I realize that I probably look like a dork walking around a magnificent church staring at the floor. :)

Another part of it is that these churches all seem so ancient and holy to me, and they make me think about time (and long passages of time), and then the fossils connect it all back even further to pre-history.

Of course, “ancient” is relative….everything in Venice seems so old to me but I’m coming from the American perspective. Here in the USA, a church or building that’s 100 years old is “historic” while a church the same age in Italy would be considered “modern.” But the fossils are ancient no matter what.

Another thing I look for in every church is a Byzantine icon of the Madonna. Almost every church in Venice has at least one of these. Some of them are famous with legends about miracles and such, but some are just regular old beautiful icons. Even the more “modern" baroque churches usually have an icon somewhere, probably carried over from previous and older incarnations of the church itself. Some of them sit in big fancy altars while others are tucked away in the sacristy, but they are usually around somewhere. They are easier to find than the fossils!

February 19, 2008

San Marziale

San Marziale

San Marziale

Don’t let the nondescript exterior fool you, this is one of the strangest churches in Venice. Strange in a good way though – it was well worth the many tries it took to finally get inside this one.

San Marziale dates back to the 9th century, though it’s been rebuilt a couple of times since then. It was high on my wish list since it’s one of a dozen or so churches in Venice with a legend about a miracle-working Madonna, this one a wooden statue carved from a tree trunk. The story is that she came to Venice on an unmanned boat, guided there by her own power with the help of angels, and she began working miracles after her arrival, healing a blind child among others.

I also really wanted to see the high altar. My hero J.G. Links (Venice for Pleasure) seldom recommends that his readers go inside any buildings, churches or otherwise, but about this one he wrote, “San Marziale…if open, demands a moment to glance at the strange scene under the altar, Venetian baroque at its most charming and idiotic.”

Hugh Honour (Companion Guide to Venice) was more specific: “The high altar which looks like a celestial rock garden with St. Jerome and two friends (Faith and Charity) picnicking under a table is one of the more endearing if most preposterous baroque fantasies in Venice.”

The church has some decent art too including a Tintoretto and four acclaimed ceiling paintings by Sebastiano Ricci, and I’d been trying to find it open for several years with no luck. I love these churches but I also love the thrill of the hunt. I don’t get disappointed when they’re closed (and they often are), but I DO get excited when I find an elusive one open and finally one night in December, this one was.

I went in and the place was largely dark and smelled like flowers. No one else was there. None of the church’s great art was lit, and there were no light boxes. Only two altars had lights on and sure enough, they were the high altar with the crazy tableau and the altar with the miracle-working Madonna.

San Marziale

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March 3, 2008

Madonna dell' Orto


The most beautiful gothic church in town with one of the loveliest facades in Venice. Of all the many red brick-fronted churches, this one is special with its white stone tracery, trim, and sculpture.The church was originally named for the patron saint of travelers and gondoliers, San Cristoforo Martire, but early in its history the church came into possession of a miracle-working statue of the Madonna and Child, and the name changed.

There are a couple of different stories about this statue. One is the legend that the statue flew to Venice on its own power and landed in a nearby orchard. The other is that the statue was commissioned from sculptor Giovanni de Santi by another church (Santa Maria Formosa) which then rejected it after its completion. The scorned artist placed it in his garden where it began working miracles and attracting crowds of pilgrims. The statue was moved onto the high altar of this church which then became known as Madonna dell’Orto (Our Lady of the Garden or Orchard) or Madonna Odorosa (The Sweet-Smelling Madonna). The statue attracted many visitors whose financial donations probably helped the church to acquire its impressive collection of art.

Madonna dell'Orto

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March 15, 2008

Gesuiti (Santa Maria Assunta)


I love this church. I should probably confess that I loved Elvis’ Graceland too. It’s not an off-the-wall comparison, believe it or not. Both places are completely unique and kinda crazy because of their over-the-top decor.

J.G. Links (Venice for Pleasure) noted that, “Nineteenth-century guidebook writers found the Gesuiti inexpressibly vulgar but taste changes and we may well find its interior witty and entertaining…” I don’t think it’s an either/or, really. Graceland is pretty vulgar but that’s what makes it entertaining!

But I don’t think the Gesuiti is vulgar at all. Despite all the excess, it works. After you recover from the sheer volume of decoration and look at the church as a whole, you might see a beautiful and harmonious space. Or you might think it’s the tackiest church you’ve ever seen. Either way, it’s a fun church to visit. Elvis would have loved it too.


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April 14, 2008

Interior of Gesuiti

This is the church with all the marble that looks like brocade fabric - I wrote about this one a few weeks ago here. This late 19th century colorized photo of the interior looks pretty cool.


Also worth checking out on Venice Daily Photo is this gorgeous aerial photo of the Basilica.

And Jill (softdrink) has some wonderful photos of churches in South Carolina and Georgia on her blog.

A new addition to my birdfeeder list except it's not a bird. When I got up this morning and went in the kitchen to make coffee, I looked out the window and saw an enormous possum in my feeder! What freaky creatures they are - I'd never seen one so up-close.

July 15, 2008

San Cristoforo

San Cristoforo

This lovely little church is out on the cemetery island, San Michele in Isola. Technically it’s part of Cannaregio since this island historically has been considered part of that sestiere but you do have to take the vaporetto out to visit it.

Before the fall of the Republic, there were two islands out here – San Michele and San Cristoforo della Pace, and both were monastery islands. Napoleon’s revamping of Venice included banning burials from Venice’s historic center and so after the monasteries were suppressed, the cemetery was moved out here and later, the two islands were merged into one.

There used to be two Renaissance churches here. The church called San Michele in Isola remains but the original San Cristoforo (built by the Lombardi family who also built Santa Maria dei Miracoli) was demolished and then rebuilt in the mid-19th century. So it’s another one of those so-called “modern” churches that’s now about 150 years old. I would love to know what the Lombardi church looked like and if anything from it was moved into the new church.

A view of the island from Fondamenta Nuove:

cemetary island

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January 17, 2009

Scuola dell' Angelo Custode

Scuola dell' Angelo

This lovely pink building is one of a handful of Protestant churches in Venice, the Chiesa Evangelica Alemanna or Evangelical Lutheran church.

Located in campo SS. Apostoli in Cannaregio, it was built in 1713 for the Scuola dell’ Angelo Custode (confraternity of the Guardian Angel), one of many charitable institutions that existed in the Venetian Republic. After Napoleon’s conquest, the scuola was suppressed, and the building was bought by Protestant German merchants who had been kicked out of their huge Grand Canal building (Fontego dei Tedeschi, which is now the Venice post office).

This marble Archangel Raphael and Tobias over the entrance is by Heinrich Meyring, best known for his work on the crazy façade of the church of San Moise.

Scuola dell 'Angelo, Raphael and Tobias

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March 29, 2009

San Giobbe

IMG_1151One of the first Renaissance buildings in Venice, this pretty pink church is dedicated to San Giobbe (St. Job) who technically was never a Christian at all since he’s an Old Testament character. But Job’s famous trials (and the fact that he was restored to prosperity and good health) made him one of the “plague saints” who was revered during the many epidemics that swept into Venice over the centuries.

The lunette over the door shows St. Francis of Assisi and Job, and was carved by Pietro Lombardo who designed much of the church and, along with his sons and workshop, also decorated several chapels inside including the triumphal arch and a sculptural scene of the Annunciation that surround the high altar.

San Giobbe relief

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April 6, 2010

Santa Maria Maddalena


One of two churches in Venice dedicated to Mary Magdalene (the other is on the island of Guidecca), this Cannaregio church was founded in 1222, but the one we see today dates from an 18th century rebuilding over top of the medieval church.

It’s a Neoclassical church, round on the outside and hexagonal inside. There was some resistance towards round churches in Venice (Palladio’s plan to build the Redentore round was squashed), but that all changed after Santa Maria della Salute when "round" came into vogue in a big way.

The architect was Tomaso Temenza, a scholar and historian of Venetian architecture who built very few buildings. La Maddalena was built in 1760-89 and was a parish church for a few decades. The Venetian Republic fell to the French, the church was closed in 1820, and then at some point in the 19th century, a demolition order was issued. Gianantonio Selva (Temenza’s student and the architect who built the opera house La Fenice) fought the order and saved the church, but its bell tower was demolished in 1881.

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August 17, 2010

Santa Caterina

Santa Caterina

A deconsecrated church in Cannaregio with a couple of great stories and some beautiful art that’s still in Venice though no longer in the church itself...

Santa Caterina was founded in the 11th century as a monastery and then became a convent for Augustinian nuns when a noble nun named Bortolotta Giustianian took over in 1289. The Santa Caterina religious complex included a convent with cloisters and this 15th century Gothic church that has a wooden ship’s keel ceiling and a large barco (singing gallery) for the nuns.

The first story concerns Bortolotta’s parents. Her father, nobleman Nicolo Giustinian, was a monk out on the Lido and after the plague wiped out his whole family, he received papal permission to leave the monastery and marry so the family line would continue. He married a woman with religious leanings herself and they had eight children in eight years, and then he returned to the monastery and his wife entered a convent.

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January 17, 2012

A is for Angel

ABC Wednesday is a meme that's been rolling through the alphabet for over five years. This week is the beginning of Round Ten, and I decided to join in the fun.

A is for Angel, and while there are many lovely angels in Venice, this is my favorite. This one can be found outside on the back of the church of Santa Fosca and is 700 or so years old, older than the church building itself. Santa Fosca was founded in the 10th century but rebuilt in 1679. More than likely, the angel was inside an older incarnation of the church and then moved outside when they rebuilt. She's a beautiful guardian for the little campo behind the church.

Santa Fosca

Santa Fosca

Santa Fosca

Home of ABC Wednesday


June 8, 2012

PhotoHunt: Graveyard

Venice's cemetery island, San Michele in Isola, is the most lovely graveyard I've ever visited. With all those cypress trees and so many flowers, it's a beautiful and peaceful place.

San Michele in Isola

San Michele in Isola

San Michele in Isola

San Michele in Isola

There are two churches on this island. The photo below shows the 19th century church of San Cristoforo which is covered with mosaics inside.

San Cristoforo

The other one is the magnificent Renaissance church of San Michele in Isola.

San Michele in Isola

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

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


August 23, 2012

San Canciano

San Canciano

San Canciano looks kind of rough from the outside but is quite pretty inside. It’s a lacy romantic feminine church, maybe it’s the floral carvings and all the pastels - pink walls and light blue marble. I always enjoy visiting this small parish church.

San Canciano is not far from the more famous and glamorous Chiesa dei Miracoli. It was founded in the 9th century, rebuilt after the 1105 fire, restored and remodeled several times, and is mainly Renaissance in style with a number of Baroque altars and paintings. A new façade was added in 1705, paid for by Michele Tommasi whose bust is over the entrance to the church.

San Canciano

The church is dedicated to three saints: brothers Canziano and Canzio, and their sister, Canzianilla; all three were martyred in 304. It might be easy to confuse this church with San Cassiano (different saint, different sestiere).

San Canciano is home to a number of sacred relics including a thorn from the crown of Christ and the relics of San Massimo (see altar below, the angels are supporting the gold box that holds the relics). San Massimo (St. Maximus) was a Greek theologian and monk, and is a saint honored by both the Orthodox and the Catholic church. He authored "Life of the Virgin," the earliest known biography of Mary.

San Canciano

The campanile is 15th century and contains a plaque with a 13th century relief of Christ above it.

San Canciano

San Canciano

When you google this church, you get a million links to the John Singer Sargent painting: Leaving Church, Campo San Canciano, Venice, 1882. It's a nice painting. The vera da pozzo in the painting is still there.

Here are a few other places on the web where you can see the interior of San Canciano, and its painting and altars:

The church’s own website

A 2010 YouTube video of a concert after the church’s Callido organ had been restored. So many people in attendance and it sounds beautiful! The first time I visited this church was during evening mass; there were three Venetian ladies there, the priest, and me. So I was happy to see so many people at that concert.

This post about artist Bartolomeo Letterini

The church's website is actually the website for the whole parish. San Canciano is the main parish church, and its "daughter" churches are Miracoli, San Giovanni Crisostomo, and San Michele in Isola.

There’s another interesting connection between San Canciano and Miracoli. In his 1907 guidebook, Thomas Okey included a chapter called “The Virgin of the Amadi” that recounts the story of the miracle-working image of the Madonna that inspired the building of the Miracoli church. At the end of the story, he notes, “The faded, worm-eaten and forgotten old picture that evoked this sumptuous casket for its preservation is now in the church of S. Canciano.”

Well, I looked for a worm-eaten Madonna in San Canciano but didn't find it. I always had my doubts that the painting on the Miracoli altar was really the one inside the original shrine!

San Canciano

The photo below is a detail from the facade of San Canciano - the stucco has chipped off and you can see all these beautiful old bricks! It amazes me to see so many different colors. I love the yellow ones. They look so very old.

San Canciano

continued below...

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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.

Continued below...

Santa Fosca

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October 5, 2012

Santa Maria dei Penitenti

Santa Maria dei Penitenti

There are a number of churches in Venice that are “chiuso al culto” (closed for worship) because they have fallen into disrepair. This small church, built as part of a larger complex to house “fallen women,” has been closed for some time but there’s restoration work going on now!

In the Venetian Republic, there was an impressive array of social services available to help the needy – orphans, widows, the elderly and even prostitutes. Most of these services were provided not by the government, but by the many scuole and other charitable organizations funded by wealthy Venetians.

Prostitution was a big business in Venice, and there were several institutions built to house the women when they left the trade. Not all of the so-called “fallen women” were prostitutes who had repented though, some of them were women who had been involved in public scandals. There was a home (ospizio or hospice) for these women close to Ss. Giovanni e Paolo that had become too crowded, and so in the early 1700’s, patriarch Giovanni Badoer (with the help of donations from wealthy Venetian women) purchased a 14th century building close to the church of San Giobbe and Ponte di Tre Archi in Cannaregio.

The property was expanded to house the women and in 1730, work began on this church (sometimes known as Le Penitenti). The buildings on either side of the church are part of the hospice, and in this Google Earth view, you can see how large the complex is, with the buildings surrounding cloisters behind the church.

Santa Maria dei Penitenti

The architect was Giorgio Massari, who also built the church of the Gesuati and Palazzo Grassi. As you can see in the first photo above, the façade was started but never completed due to lack of funds. Supposedly there are still Corinthian columns in the cloisters that were intended to decorate the façade. There are a several churches without facades in Venice, and most of them were built in the 18th century when the Republic’s economy was in decline and it became difficult to find wealthy donors to complete the work. This church doesn’t have a campanile; instead, there are Roman bells on the roof which you can see in the photo below and also in the video I’ve linked further down.

Santa Maria dei Penitenti

Lorenzetti (Venice and Its Lagoon) says that the interior of the church is harmonious and was once decorated with some nice paintings, including a Virgin in Glory with Lorenzo Giustiniani by Jacopo Marieschi. The church had a nuns' gallery so that the female residents of the hospice could attend Mass unseen by locals from the neighborhood.

In fact, the entire complex was designed so that these “redeemed women of questionable morals” (Another Venice by Jacopo Fasolo) could live self-sufficiently and isolated, much like nuns, with gardens, chickens, and wells for collecting water in the cloisters. In order to live in Ospizio dei Penintenti, the women had to be over 12 years old, they could not be pregnant, they had to have lived in Venice for at least one year, and they must have given up their sinful life for at least 3 months. I guess there was an application and review process?

Santa Maria dei Penitenti

After the fall of the Republic, this ospizio remained open and fallen women from Casa del Soccorso were relocated here. Because it was a secular organization and not a convent, it wasn’t suppressed like so many religious sites were. It continued to serve its original purpose for some time and then morphed into a home for the elderly in the 20th century. It closed in 1995 in a state of “advanced degradation.”

But in June 2009, a 12 million Euro restoration began, scheduled to be completed in 2013. Here’s a link to an article and a description of the plan:

“Site is designed with a rich functional purpose, more public services on the ground floor for the neighborhood (clinics, rehabilitation, gym), day center for common tasks, Alzheimer's day care center for 18 users, with garden and courtyard. More oriented towards the private sector, however, the two upper floors, with residences for 90 frail elderly people.”

And here’s a 2009 news story video with views of the interior of the complex as the restoration began. What a fantastic space, and what a big undertaking to restore it! I don’t know if the church will re-open too but I hope that it will. Look forward to seeing the scaffolding come down!

Santa Maria dei Penitenti

November 7, 2013

Santa Sofia

Santa Sofia

There are a bunch of churches in Venice that are hard to find, but once you can get there, you CAN see them. Not so with the little church of Santa Sofia – this one is easy to miss because it’s almost completely hidden by other buildings – all you can see is the roof and the campanile peeking over the stores and homes in front of it.

It’s on Strada Nuova in Cannaregio, the very wide (for Venice) street that runs parallel to the Grand Canal. This “new street” was created in 1871-72, shortly after Venice joined the Italian Republic, and a number of buildings were demolished to build it. But Santa Sofia wasn’t a victim of this demolition work – even in de Barbari’s map of 1500, the church was hemmed in by surrounding buildings (at that time, the church was larger, and the bell tower was taller and more elaborate).

About the name and dedication – this church might be dedicated to St. Sophia who was martyred in 137 AD in Rome along with her three daughters, Faith, Hope and Charity. Or because of Venice’s Byzantine roots, it might be dedicated to the “Holy Wisdom” like the former basilica Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom). Perhaps it’s dedicated to both.

There’s a lot of conflicting info about the church’s history. It might have been founded in 866 or maybe in 1020-25. Funds probably came from the noble Gussoni family. It was rebuilt or remodeled a number of times (1225, 1568, 1698) and might have been damaged by fire in 1760. In 1461, a priest from Santa Sofia was sentenced to life imprisonment for bad behavior with the wife of a wool merchant. The bell tower is possibly 10th century or maybe 13th – it’s one of Venice’s oldest towers, either way.

Santa Sofia

Most sources seem to agree that the church we see today closely resembles the late 17th century restoration by Antonio Gaspari (an architect who also restored Santa Maria della Fava and worked with Longhena on Santa Maria della Salute).

Santa Sofia was closed by the French in 1810, stripped of its artwork and decoration, and the building sold to the Jewish community who used it as a warehouse. But then in 1836 it was purchased by a Venetian citizen, reconsecrated and reopened as a church, and decorated with artwork from other suppressed or demolished churches.

Shortly after Santa Sofia reopened, a history of the church written by Gian-jacopo Fontana was published. According to Fontana, the church at one time housed paintings by the Big Three (Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto) but who knows where those paintings are now. Today there are some sculptures of saints from the nearby demolished church of Santa Maria dei Servi, a couple of paintings from the Bassano workshop, and on the high altar, a Baptism of Christ by Daniel Heintz (a junior member of the Heintz family of architects and artists). It’s sparsely decorated but pretty inside. My favorite thing in the church is this icon of the Black Madonna (I wish I knew its history).

Santa Sofia

There's a nice wooden shrine on the apse of the church~


And above the side entrance, a barely visible Madonna and Child~

Santa Sofia

Santa Sofia

Walk across Strada Nuova to reach Campo Santa Sofia, where you can ride a gondola across the Grand Canal to the Rialto Market. This is one of the oldest traghetto stands (gondola ferry) in Venice, dating back to the 12th century.

Santa Sofia

Santa Sofia

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October 23, 2014

San Bonaventura

San Bonaventura

This church and an adjacent monastery were founded in 1620 by the Franciscan order of the Riformati (which gave the name to the Fondamenta dei Riformati in front). These Franciscans friars relocated from the island monastery of San Francesco del Deserto and received funding from the wealthy Zen family to build this religious complex on reclaimed land in northern Cannaregio, not far from the church of Sant’ Alvise.

The church is dedicated to St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), an Italian theologian and early follower of St. Francis of Assisi.

After the fall of the Venetian Republic and the great suppression of churches, the church and monastery were closed. The place was used as a factory and for other secular purposes until 1859, when it was purchased by a Venetian countess who gave the complex to the Carmelite nuns of Santa Teresa. In the early 20th century, the nuns ran a children’s hospital here, and the church was the private chapel for the convent.

The nuns are still there today and Mass is celebrated daily at 6:30 in the morning according to the Patriarch of Venice website. I've never found it open and going to Mass might be the only way to visit it. The church was behind scaffolding a few years ago – not sure if the restoration is completed yet or not.

San Bonaventura

This Google Earth view shows the cloisters, gardens, and so many trees.

San Bonaventura

San Bonaventura

December 12, 2014

San Marcuola

San Marcuola

Several interesting tidbits about the church of San Marcuola~

• It's one of the few churches on the Grand Canal
• It’s dedicated to a “Venetian” saint that doesn’t exist
• Has one of 8 partially demolished bell towers in Venice
• It houses one of 7 Tintoretto Last Suppers in Venice (this is the earliest)
• It's one of a number of Venetian churches with an unfinished façade

There’s no saint named San Marcuola. The real name of this church is SS. Ermagora and Fortunato, in honor of two first century martyr saints from Aquileia in Northern Italy. Venetians seem to dislike churches with names that are too long and so they morph them into something more manageable like San Marcuola, which is how this church has been known for centuries (other churches whose names have been crunched include San Trovaso and San Zanipolo).

Sources disagree about when San Marcuola was founded. 9th or 10th century, most say, though one Italian source says that the original church was a small wooden one built in 569. It’s been a parish church since the beginning and remains one today. Early in its history, the church housed a group of nuns who lived in a hermitage above the portico, but at some point the nuns relocated to San Trovaso and then later to the Eremite in Dorsoduro.

San Marcuola was rebuilt in the 12th century after it was destroyed by a fire caused by an earthquake. In de Barbari’s map (1500), the church sat parallel to the Grand Canal and the apse faced north. When the church was rebuilt in 1728-36 by Giorgio Massari, it was reoriented so that the façade faces the Grand Canal. But when you enter the church, the high altar is to the right, not straight ahead.

San Marcuola

Work did begin on the facade (you can see the marble at the bottom) but was never completed, which happened a lot in 18th century Venice when the republic and its residents were running out of money (other façade-less churches include San Pantalon, San Lorenzo, and Santa Maria della Fava). If the facade had been completed, the church would have looked similar to the Pieta or Gesuati, also works by Massari.

About those obscure saints, the church’s sacred relics include the body of St. Fortunato and a finger of St. Ermagora. But the most revered relic is the hand of John the Baptist, which is displayed every year on June 24th and is commemorated in this relief on a building behind the church.

San Marcuola

Inside the church: “The plan is unusual, with twin pulpits over the north and south doors and altars clustered in the corners.” (Hugh Honour, Companion Guide to Venice). There’s a lot of nice carving on the columns, and as for the art, there’s more sculpture than painting, with a bunch of Baroque works by Venetian sculptor, Gian Maria Morleiter (1699-1781) and several paintings by Francesco Migliori (1684 -1734).

The church’s greatest artistic treasure is its Tintoretto Last Supper, which can be seen on the wall to the left of the high altar. He painted it when he was in his 20’s and it’s interesting to compare it to his masterpiece in San Giorgio Maggiore, painted almost 50 years later. (See the end of the post for the list of Tintoretto's Last Suppers in Venice).

German composer, Johann Adolph Hasse, and his Venetian-born wife, opera singer Faustina Bordoni, are buried in this church.

San Marcuola

For centuries, there was a traghetto station in front of San Marcuola, as you can see in the vintage photo above and my photo at the top of the page. Later, a vaporetto station was added as well. Sadly, the San Marcuola traghetto station closed in 2012, and the little wooden hut is now gone.

San Marcuola Photo Gallery
In this Flickr gallery, you can see what it looks like without the traghetto station in the first photo (taken in 2013).

The bell tower was partially demolished in the 19th century. The lower portion remains and has been converted into housing, You can kinda sorta see it behind the trees in this photo below.


Today the church has Roman bells on the roof instead of a campanile.

San Marcuola

The large Baroque well-head in the campo in front of the church was built in 1713. By decree, its water was for the use of the poor.

San Marcuola

A beautiful door on the back of the church~

San Marcuola

On the rear corner, a saint in a niche~

San Marcuola

Continue reading "San Marcuola" »

May 15, 2015

Much ado...

Santa Maria della Misericordia

Santa Maria della Misericordia, a deconsecrated and long-closed church in Venice makes the news...

Venice officials threaten to close mosque installation at Biennale art fair

This isn't the first mosque in Venice, by the way, there used to be one in the Fondaco dei Turchi.

UPDATE: Much more information (plus some wonderful photos) is here.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Churches in Venice in the Cannaregio category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Castello is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


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