This beautiful shrine commemorates a demolished church that used to be in this Castello campo. Founded in 1130, the church was originally dedicated to Saints Liberal and Alexis but was rededicated to Santa Marina when her body was placed on the high altar of the church in 1231 after the Venetians stole her from Constantinople. These "pious thefts" are strange and recurring events in Venice's history; for whatever reason, stealing the body of San Marco in 828 started a trend that continued for centuries.
Santa Marina (aka Marina the Monk) is a very interesting 5th century saint from Lebanon who entered a monastery when she was very young, disguised as a boy, and no one knew she was a woman until decades later when she died and the monks were preparing her body for burial. Legend has that it was quite a shock when they discovered the truth!
During her life, she was falsely accused of fathering a child and accepted her punishment without protest and ended up raising the child who grew up to be a monk too. Marina was buried in a grotto at the monastery in Lebanon where she is still honored today, but at some point her body was stolen and taken to Constantinople, where it was later stolen again by the Venetians. She is usually depicted in art with the child who she did not father, as she is inside this shrine.
Several doges were buried in this church which had a great collection of art and was the parish church of the master Giovanni Bellini.
The church was suppressed in 1818 and for a brief time, it was a wine shop and tavern. There are funny stories about waiters and customers shouting, “a jug in the chapel of the Holy Sacrament” and such. And then the church was demolished in 1820 and private houses built on the site; the doges were moved to San Zanipolo and the relics of Santa Marina were moved to Santa Maria Formosa.
There’s something so magical about that first view of Venice after arrival, when you see the towers and domes in the distance as you make your way across the lagoon. It really looks like some kind of unearthly fairy tale city, and those bell towers are so very beautiful.
Jacopo de Barbari’s famous 1503 map shows 103 bell towers in Venice proper (the six sestieri). Today there are 66 in the historic center plus a few more on the lagoon islands, and the history of these towers is a fascinating but rather hair-raising tale of one disaster after another. The most famous collapse was the campanile di San Marco, but that’s only the most recent one - they’ve been falling for centuries due to earthquakes, subsidence, and old age. A bunch of them fell on the same day during a 1347 earthquake and legend has it that earlier in the day, their bells mysteriously rang on their own, announcing their impending doom perhaps?
A few were blown down by high winds, several collapsed when people tried to straighten them, and others were demolished when they became unsafe. A number of towers were struck by lightning and burned. A recent lightning strike was at San Giorgio Maggiore in 1994 – the wooden angel on top of the campanile caught on fire and its charred remains are now inside the church. Andasamo took a great photo of it. The angel that’s now on top of the tower is new.
Quite a few priests, monks, and innocent bystanders were killed by these falling towers over the centuries. Of course, it wouldn’t be Venice without another miraculous story, and this one concerns the tower in the photo above which is from the church of SS. Apostoli. This tower was built in 1450 and then in 1659 during a violent storm, the belfry blew off. During the reconstruction in 1672, an old priest named Domenico Longo climbed up the tower to check on the work and slipped and fell, but his robes were caught on the arms of the clock on the side of the tower, where he dangled until he was rescued.
Many bell towers were destroyed along with their churches when Napoleon conquered the Republic and “embarked on a policy the savagery of which, even now, sends shivers down the spine. It took the form of a frontal attack on the religious institutions of Venice.” (John Julius Norwich in Paradise of Cities).
So many churches and monasteries were closed at that time and while some of the churches later reopened, a lot of them were demolished during the French and Austrian occupations. Le Chiese di Venezia (by Umberto Franzoi and Dina Di Stefano) lists 39 churches that were demolished in the historic center, and more were destroyed on the islands. Some of them were torn down to make way for public works like the train station and the public gardens in Castello, but others were destroyed because they were old and there simply wasn’t interest in or money for restoring them. It’s hard to get too indignant about all the art that was looted from Venice because the Venetians had been stealing art for centuries, but way too many beautiful and historically important churches were torn down, in my opinion.
This is such a lovely and magical spot. The 12th century cloister of Sant’ Apollonia is the oldest surviving cloister in Venice and today is part of the Museo Diocesano di Venezia (Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art).
The cloister was part of a Benedictine monastery adjacent to the now demolished church of SS. Filippo e Giacomo. The monastery was built for monks who originally resided on the lagoon island of Ammiana, which sank after the Christmas Day earthquake of 1223, and so the monks moved to Venice. Sinking islands and monasteries…it makes me think about scuba-diving archeologists and what all they might find in the waters of that lagoon.
This painting by Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (1697-1768), is in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh and is called “Capriccio: The Rialto Bridge and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.”
The Italian word “capriccio” means whim or fancy. It could also be translated as “wait a minute, what the heck is San Giorgio Maggiore doing next to the Rialto Bridge?!?”
Canaletto was a native Venetian and while he painted many “straight up” scenes of his city, he sometimes moved things around a bit which is disconcerting to those of us who’ve been to Venice but just looks beautiful to those who haven’t. Canaletto’s paintings were much in demand by aristocratic British tourists and as a result, there are only a handful of his paintings in Venice but hundreds of them in the UK (the Queen herself has over 50 in the Royal Collection).
The districts of Venice are called sestieri (singular: sestiere) and there are six of them. It’s kind of goofy that some guidebooks and websites report that Venice has seven or more districts since the word sestiere means “sixths.” It would be like claiming that the USA has 54 states because you think that Texas and Alaska are too big!
Venice is so small that I think of the sestieri more as neighborhoods than districts. There are three on each side of the Grand Canal, and three of the six were named for churches.
Castello: named for a castle that used to be in this area
San Marco: named for the patron saint of Venice and his church
Cannaregio: named for the bamboo (canna) that used to grow in this area before it was developed
San Polo: named for the 9th century church dedicated to St. Paul
Santa Croce: named for an ancient church that was demolished in the 19th century
Dorsoduro: means “hard bone” – the land in this part of Venice was higher and more solid than others.
Each sestiere is divided into parishes, and each parish has a church. At one point, Venice was divided into 70 parishes (contrade) but after the fall of the Republic, the church organizational plan was revamped and today there are 30 parish churches. Getting to know the locations of churches (and learning to recognize their bell towers) is a great navigational tool – it won’t prevent you from getting lost but it will help you recover more quickly.
The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is part of sestiere San Marco while Guidecca is part of Dorsoduro. The cemetery island of San Michele is part of Cannaregio. Murano was also part of Cannaregio until 1271 when it was granted separate community status (which the other lagoon islands have too).
There's an article by Shannon on the Slow Travel site that describes each sestiere – it’s a great resource for people trying to decide where to stay. I don’t think there’s really any undesirable area in Venice, although I don’t think I’d like to stay too close to the train station nor would I want to stay in the San Marco/Rialto corridor in high season. Too hectic. So far I’ve stayed in four of the six sestieri – I haven’t stayed in Cannaregio or Dorsoduro yet. I don't have a favorite but I really love Santa Croce and campo San Giacomo dall' Orio.
This column is all that’s left of the demolished church of Santa Croce; it’s embedded in a wall close to the Papadopoli Gardens.
A pretty little corte in the sestiere of San Marco with a vera da pozzo used as a planter. The corte is named for a demolished church, Sant' Andrea della Certosa (or Sant' Andrea of the Lido), that was out on an lagoon island close to the Lido. The Sant' Andrea monks owned a hospice in town where they would stay when they rowed over to Venice for business. The hospice was built in 1272, and this relief (showing St. Andrew and worshippers) was added in the 14th century.
These are the gates to the Arsenale, the famed shipyards which were the source of much of the Venetian Republic's wealth. There used to be a small Renaissance church to the right of these gates and thanks to a painting by Canaletto, we can see what it looked like.
Madonna dell 'Arsenale was built in the 16th century by an unknown architect who modeled it on a Greek temple. Looks like a sweet little place. It was demolished in the early 19th century.
Sant’ Angelo is a very spacious campo in the sestiere of San Marco, and one reason it’s so large is because there used to be a parish church here, San Michele Arcangelo (dedicated to Archangel Michael). The church is gone but you can still find an oratory and a very cool vera da pozzo (wellhead).
The carvings on the wellhead are connected to the name of the oratory (Oratorio dell’ Annunziata) or oratory of the Annunciation. Archangel Gabriel is on one side of the well holding his lily, and Mary is on the other side, receiving the good news.
Oratory of the Annunciation
This is an unintentional collection. As I wander around Venice looking for shrines, I also take photos of any angels I see but it wasn't until I got home that I realized there was a recurring theme with many of them....the finger pointing at the scroll.
This one is in the sestiere of San Marco, by the bridge behind the church of Santa Maria del Giglio.
My favorite, this one is on the side of the church of SS. Maria e Donato on the island of Murano. Check out the two dragons underneath and the lion sticking out his tongue.
In Campo Santa Margherita, perhaps from the deconsecrated church.
A few works of art depicting Torcello. This lovely drawing is by John Ruskin~
And another Ruskin drawing, this one comparing the capitals of Torcello's Santa Maria Assunta with those of San Marco~
I’d read about this Renaissance church and seen a few photos of it, and I was so excited to finally see it in person. What a weird little church, tucked away in a small courtyard right behind the apse of the Basilica di San Marco. It mystifies me as to why they felt the need to build another church in this location!
San Teodoro was built in 1486 by Giorgio Spavento (an architect sometimes credited for the famous spiral staircase, Scala Contarini del Bovolo). The little church is behind San Marco, and its right side is attached to the back of the Doge’s Palace. The brick façade was originally covered with frescoes which are long gone, and the doorway is surrounded with some fine floral carvings. The mosaic above the door shows San Teodoro (St. Theodore) fighting the dragon; this mosaic was moved here from the demolished church of Santa Maria Nova.
In the 16th century, architect Jacopo Sansovino built a huge buttress to support San Marco; this thing runs right into the front of the little church. Embedded in the buttress is a fascinating collection of stone and marble fragments from various restorations of San Marco over the centuries. A stones of Venice collage.
In “Another Venice,” Jacopo Fasolo describes this little courtyard:
“The hotchpotch effect is a perfect example of the Venetian expression “andar per le fodere,” that is reaching hidden areas by following secret paths, thus heightening the visitor’s sense of discovery and expectation.” He speculates that this area was a secret passage for the doge and his entourage, perhaps for security reasons after a couple of doges were assassinated while on procession around the city. Perhaps the doge felt the need for a small and secret church too?
The Fasolo book is wonderful, by the way, full of info about lesser-known places along with nice watercolors by the author.
This is the rear view of the humongous Mulino Stucky, a former flour mill on Giudecca that’s now a Hilton hotel. You’ve seen this place (you can’t miss it) if you’ve ever walked along the Zattere and admired the view of Giudecca across the canal. It was built in 1895 by a German architect hired by the Swiss businessman who owned the factory. Most people found it an eyesore when it was built and some probably still do, though others think that it’s not so bad as far as 19th century industrial architecture goes. The flour mill was in operation until 1955 and at its peak, employed 1500 people and is credited with bringing electricity to Venice.
The ancient church and convent of Ss. Biagio e Cataldo were destroyed to build this factory. This religious complex began as a refuge for pilgrims on the way to the Holy Land and later became a convent for Benedictine nuns, founded by Blessed Giuliana di Collalto (1186-1262). She was revered as a saint in Venice and credited with working miracles both before and after her death. For centuries, migraine and headache sufferers came to her church to seek healing from her.
Her painted sarcophagus is one of the oldest examples of Venetian painting still in existence; it’s now in the Correr Museum and you can see a photo of it here (scroll down to "Venetian school").
When Ss. Biagio e Cataldo was demolished, the relics of Blessed Giuliana and some of the art were taken to the nearby church of Sant’ Eufemia; its side portico was built with materials from the demolished church.
Mulino Stucky casts a huge reflection - looks like the paint has run off the building and into the canal.
This week's PhotoHunt theme is "Missing or Missed."
A beautiful 16th century relief in Venice that shows the Madonna and Child with saints Chrisopher and Rocco. Sadly, San Rocco is missing his head. You can click on the photo to see it larger, on Flickr.
This relief is over the entrance to a convent founded in 1427. In 1649, the nuns built a small church called Santa Maria del Rosario. I missed seeing that church since it was demolished in 1810.
And finally, I have a feeling that some of my fellow photohunters will miss this week's hunt since Blogger has had a meltdown. I hope it's fixed soon!
Thanks for visiting and have a nice weekend.
You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here.
This detail from a Canaletto painting of Piazza San Marco shows the Renaissance church of San Geminiano as it looked for 250 years before it was demolished by the French. It’s just so odd to see a church there facing the Basilica di San Marco.
Today there’s a memorial in the pavement close to the entrance of the Correr Museum, with a drawing of the façade and an inscription that notes that the architect, Jacopo Sansovino, built the new church of San Geminiano in 1557, and it was demolished in 1807. It’s interesting that this memorial slab was installed in 1937, 130 years after the church was destroyed. Gone but clearly not forgotten.
Sansovino’s church was at least the third incarnation of this one. Legend has it that San Geminiano was founded in 554, making it one of the most ancient churches in Venice. I learned from Secret Venice that there’s another memorial slab in the Piazza that commemorates a different and older version of the church, which was demolished in the 13th century as part of a Piazza San Marco expansion project. We don't know what this church looked like but best guess is that it was Byzantine. Thanks so much to Bert for sharing his photo of this plaque which can be found in the vicinity of Caffe Florian.
The church was moved further back when it was rebuilt and in de Barbari’s map of 1500, you can see that the next incarnation of the church had a free standing Gothic campanile. The Sansovino church had two small attached towers, not a free standing tower, as you can see in the 19th century etching below.
Sansovino’s son, Francesco, wrote a history and guide to Venice in 1581; here’s how he described his father’s church:
“Perhaps the most ornate in the city, being faced both inside and out with precious marbles and Istrian stone, exceedingly rich, and perfectly conceived as a structure.”
In “A History of Venice,” John Julius Norwich wrote that San Geminiano was “one of the most spectacular small treasure-houses in the city.” When the Venetians stole the body of San Rocco from France in 1484, the holy relics resided in this church for a few years until the saint's own church was built.
So when San Geminiano was destroyed, its treasures and tombs were dispersed, and not all of them remained in Venice. Sansovino’s tomb was moved to the monastery adjacent to La Salute (he was later moved to San Marco), the tomb of John Law was relocated to San Moise, and the relics of San Geminiano himself (a 4th century bishop saint) were moved to the new 19th century church of Santissimo Nome di Gesu in the sestiere of Santa Croce.
The lovely Renaissance altar and its sculptures were moved to the church of San Giovanni di Malta; you can see photos of it on AnnaLivia’s blog.
The church’s organ doors by Veronese are now in the Galleria Estense in Modena. Here they are~
The 19th century church of San Maurizio is supposed to pay homage to San Geminiano and perhaps the interior design is similar, but the facades are pretty different.
Not all of Venice's demolished churches have memorial plaques like San Geminiano does, but most of them have something left behind, even if it’s simply the name of a calle or campo. The church of San Stin, in the sestiere of San Polo, is remembered in the names of a campo, a rio, and a bridge, but also in a few other interesting remnants
This parish church was founded in the 10th century. Its official name was Santo Stefano Confessore, but the Venetians began to call it San Stefanino or “little St. Stephen” to distinguish it from the larger Santo Stefano in sestiere San Marco. And then in charming Venetian fashion, the name morphed into San Stin. The large Gothic church is dedicated to Stephen the first Christian martyr while this smaller church honored a different saint, Stephen the priest.
San Stin was rebuilt after it was destroyed in the great fire of 1105, and perhaps rebuilt again in 1259, and restored many times until its demise in 1810. You can see the church and its Gothic bell tower in de Barbari’s 1500 map and also in this detail from an 18th century painting by Bernardo Bellotto (Canaletto’s nephew). The side of the church faced into the campo with the tower in the rear. Behind San Stin, you can see the bell tower and top of the façade of the Frari.
Today in the corner of the campo, the base of the bell tower and a chapel are still there, and it’s fun to compare them to the Bellotto painting. At one point in the 20th century, this housed an upholstery shop. Today it seems to be a private residence, and its owners appear to have bought their paint on Burano.
The orange paint is recent; here's what the chapel looked like in 2008.
In campo San Stin, there’s a vera da pozzo that dates to 1508. On one side, the weathered carvings show St. James and St. Barbara with the cross of Calvary in between them.
On the other side of the well-head is San Stefanino himself with a funny perplexed expression on his face. Perhaps he can’t believe they tore his church down?
When San Stin was demolished, its “Assumption of the Virgin” by Tintoretto was relocated to the Accademia where it still is today. Tintoretto painted this in 1550, a little over 30 years after Titian painted his masterpiece of the same subject a stone’s throw away in the Frari. So interesting to compare them!
Another church demolished in the 19th century, Sant’Agostin was a parish church dedicated to St. Augustine, located not far from the Frari and San Stin.
One source says that this church was founded in 1001 (such a specific date!) while another source says that it was built in 953-64 (again, very specific). Safe bet is to say 10th century or so. The church burned down three times (1105, 1149, and 1634) and was rebuilt each time (the etching above is the final version, and de Barbari's map below shows version #2). “Venice From the Bell Towers” says that Sant’Agostin was sober on the outside but “the interior featured a wealth of altars, precious marbles, stuccoes, and frescoes.”
After the 1810 suppression, the church building was used as a flour mill and then as a warehouse until 1873 when it was demolished to build housing. In the campo today, the apartment buildings at 2304 -2306 are located where the church used to be. The church lives on in the name of the campo and a bridge, and also on the vera da pozzo with its carvings of the symbols of the saint (a bishop’s mitre and staff).
There’s an amazingly detailed history of this campo and church on Giandri’s website; it’s a fascinating wealth of info that includes a list of the art that was in the church, a photo of the campo during the 1966 flood, a photo of a statue of St. Augustine that was relocated to the church of San Polo, and a really crazy modern story.
In 2000, when the campo’s sewage system was being repaired, they discovered the most ancient foundations of the original church along with tombs that had been robbed during the second rebuilding of the church. They were able to date the tombs because the medieval bricks matched the ones used to build the Torcello campanile in 1008. There’s a photo of two of the tombs filled with bones!
Giandri’s website also recounts another thing this campo is famous for, the Column of Infamy which commemorated a 1310 plot to overthrow the Venetian government. A few years ago, Venice in Peril published an article calling for the column to be returned to Campo Sant’Agostin but I don’t know if it happened.
I also learned from Giandri that this statue below, now on the outside of a home on Salizada San Polo, probably came from the church of Sant’Agostin.
These sculptures are on the wall in between the church of Santa Maria della Salute and the Seminario Patriarcale in Venice. They were originally on the high altar of the church of Le Vergini (Santa Maria delle Vergini) which was demolished in the 19th century.
There are actually five sculptures on this wall but I was only able to see three of them. The Seminary was being restored, and the other two sculptures were behind the scaffolding.
Four of the Le Vergini sculptures are by artist Orazio Marinali, and one of the them is "The Savior" by Giulio del Moro. The Patriarchal Seminary has a lot of art from Venice's demolished churches - I don't know if the restoration is completed but look forward to visiting it someday.
Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.
See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.
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