Itinerary n.2

Also today we start our itinerary at San Mark square, given that it is the most famous square of the city and so easily reachable from every hotel or flat you stay.

As yesterday, take the Sottoportego dei Dai, on your left looking to the Basilica. Follow the main calle until you see Calle Fiubera on you right. Take it and go straight until Ponte dei Ferali. The feraleri were lantern-makers. In ancient Venice there were so many murders in the dark streets and in 1450 the government decided that any one wishing to walk in the city after 3am had to carry a light. Servants carried light for noblemen and this custom gave rise to the job of the codega, that was a kind of porter who, holding a light lantern or umbrella, stood outside the caffee in St. Mark square or other busy places, waiting to serve those who wished to be accompanied home.

The calle after the bridge leads you to Campo San Zulian. The church was founded in the 9th Century, then it underwent a number of reconstructions and the façade was completely reconstructed in 1553-1554 by Jacopo Sansovino. He is known for his works in Piazza San Marco. His masterpiece is the Library of Saint Mark’s, the Biblioteca Marciana, the richly decorated Renaissance structures that you say yesterday.

Above the main entrance of the church you can see a statue. He is Tommaso Rangone, a rich philologist and physician from Ravenna that met most of the expense during the reconstruction of the 16th Century.

Take the first calle on the right, Calle Spadaria, where sword-makers had their workshops (spada means sword). At the end of the calle turn left and follow Calle Larga San Marco until the last little calle on the right. Take it, and then turn left again. Here you can see a bridge called Ponte Cappello. Don’t cross it, but the next one, Ponte della Canonica. From here you can see the Bridge of Ssospirismallights in the background. The Bridge of Sight was built in 1602 to connect the Doge’s prisons, or Prigioni, with the inquisitor’s rooms in the main palace on the left. The Bridge received its name in the 19th Century by Lord Byron because the prisoners crossing the bridge, could ‘enjoy’ a final view of Venice and the lagoon through the little windows of the bridge before being taken down to their cell.

Follow the little calle in front of the bridge, Rughetta S. Apollonia and take the first calle on the right, Calle degli Albanesi (so called because some Albanian citizen lived there) that lead you in Riva degli Schiavoni.

Riva degli Schiavoni takes its name from Slavic merchants, in ancient Venice Slavonia. Once it was an harbour so here arrived and departed lost of ships from Europe and the Middle East. You can see that is a very busy place, rich in shops that once were markets stalls that probably had their start in the 15th Century, when some Slavs and Greeks moved permanently into the area and used to sell their products along this big Riva.

If you go right in the direction of St. Mark square, but without entering in the square, you can reach the Giardini, a very nice area where you can relax a little before continue our tour.

From there you can see Punta della Dogana, now a contemporary museum which opened its doors in 2006 after fourteen months of renovation by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Punta della Dogana is located between the Grand and Giudecca Canals at the end of an island in the Dorsoduro district. The building was once the Customs House and it is surmounted by a golden sphere with a statue of Fortune on the top that serves as a weathervane. The houses situated on the other side of the island, facing the Giudecca Canal, are the Saloni del Sale, vast offices used to store salt – a valuable good at that time used to preserve food.

On the other side you can also see the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, a Palladio construction. Palladio has been a great architect, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius. He designed many palaces, villas, and churches located mainly in the province and the city of Vicenza. Here in Venice he planed the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Church of Il Redentore on the Giudecca island. In the later part of his career, Palladio was chosen by powerful members of Venetian society for numerous important commissions, especially for their villas in the countryside. His success as an architect is based not only on the beauty of his work, but also for its harmony with the culture of his time. His buildings served to communicate the place in the social order of their owners and the powerful integration of beauty and the physical representation of social meanings made him a very appreciate architect.

Come back to Riva degli Schiavoni and follow the street until you see the Church of the Pietà. It is a 18th Century construction (but the foundation was older) ended in the 20th Century. It is so called because here there was the orphanage and Pietà! was the word shouted by the nuns when going round the city asking people to help the children. So on the wall of the church you can see this plaque warning against abandoning babies. Antonio Vivaldi, that lived in this area, taught in the orphanage and here he also composed most of his concerti and oratorios. The interior is oval and on the ceilings there are frescoed by Tiepolo depicting Strength and Peace and Triumph of Faith, while the presbytery is painted by the same artist with the Theological Virtues.

Take Calle della Pietà and turn right into Calle Drio la Pietà. Follow the street until you reach Campo Bandiera e Moro o Giovanni in Bragora. The church was probably founded in the 6th Century by St Magnus of Oderzo. It was renovated several times and rebuilt twice, but the last restoration in the 18th Century altered maybe too much its former appearance. There have been various interpretation of the names. A possible Venetian derivation is that Bragora comes from brago (mud) and gora (canal with stagnant water) suggesting the area may have been a muddy place. Bragora may come from the Greek word agora (a public meeting place). This is the church where Antonio Vivaldi was baptized in 1678 as his family lived close to the church at the time (see the plaque on the church).

Take Calle Crosera, and then into the first calle on your right called Calle del Forno. Before the end of the calle, on the right is Campiello del Piovan. The name del Piovan, found in several streets and squares in the city, indicates the presence of the house of the parish priest (piovano). In this small square there are two 15th Century wellheads and a cube shaped 16th Century wellhead with a relief of St. John.

We arrived here by passing Calle del Forno where once there was a baker’s shop or oven (forno). A story tell that in 1819 an elephant escaped from its cage in Riva degli Schiavoni and ran into Calle del Forno. Here the animal destroyed several houses, walls and shops, including the oven, later rebuilt.

Come back to Riva degli Schiavoni and turn right in the direction of St. Mark Square. Go beyond the Pietà, cross Ponte de la Pietà and then turn right into Calle San Zaccaria. This is Campo San Zaccaria. The Church of San Zaccaria (open daily 10am–12pm, 4pm-6pm) has very ancient foundation and it is said to have been founded by St Magnus in the 7th century. Then, in the 19th Century, the doges Angelo and Giustiniano Partecipanzio added a Benedectine convent to the church when they received the bones of St Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, as a gift from the Byzantine Emperor Leo V. Today the saint’s body lies under the second altar on the right. The church became a pilgrimage site and several early doges were buried there. The convent had to be reconstructed together with the church after the terrible fire of 1105 when 100 nuns died of suffocation in the 10th Century crypt that still exist today.

The present church was completed at the beginning of the 16th Century in a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles. Antonio Gambello was the original architect, who started the building in the Gothic style, but the upper part of the facade and the upper parts of the interior were completed by Mauro Codussi. On the right hand side of the façade you can see part of the old 15th Century brick building of the convent which was suppressed in 1810 by Napoleon and, after being used for various purposes, is now a police station.

Inside you can see Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Four Saints over the second altar. It was painted in 1505 when Bellini was very old, about 74 and it seems a continuation of the surrounding architecture, so bright and majestic. The painting was stolen by Napoleon and kept in Paris for 20 years, before being returned in 1817. During this time it was transferred from panel to canvas, a very complex process at that time. To fit into its current altar the painting had a strip cut from bottom, and some sources claim that these losses occurred during the painting’s time in Paris.

Take the calle on your left (leaving the church on your right) and cross Ponte San Provolo, a very old one, built in the 13th Century. This bridge allowed the doge to visit San Zaccaria Church avoiding Riva degli Schiavoni because there, in the early 12th Century Doge Michiel was attacked by a furious foreign merchant. The doge wasn’t killed, but the event induced the future doges to avoid the Riva, an area so frequented by foreign, tired and maybe drunk merchant.

Take the first calle on the right called Calle Rimpetto la Sacrestia and then the second calle on the left, called Calle Fianco la Chiesa. This is the small Campo San Zaninovo. The name Zaninovo is Venetian dialect for San Giovanni Novo (novo means new). The original church was founded in 968, and it acquired the name Novo when it was rebuilt in the 12th Century. Then the church was demolished and rebuilt again in the 18th Century, on the same site and with the original orientation of the previous one, but  the façade remained unfinished. The church is now closed and deconsecrated.

Take the Sottoportego della Stua (on your left looking toward the church). Stua means stove because in this place some doctors used to treat disease with big amount of hot water, quite a rarity in Venice in 14th and 15th Century. Here Venetians came to have baths, to warm up during winter, and it is said that it was also used for amorous encounter.

Follow Fondamenta del Remedio until the strange bridge on your right. It leads you to Campiello Querini Satmpalia. The Querini family, that had a palazzo here, were expelled from Venice in 1310 because of their part in the Tiepolo plot. During the exile they lived in Greece where they bought an island near Rhodes, the island of Stampalia. The family came back to Venice in the 16th Century, and once there they decided to improve their reputation by starting a series of structural improvements and embellishments to their palazzo. The last descendant of the family founded in the palazzo a cultural institution (1869) now called Fondazione Querini Satampalia. The museum is beautiful given that is one of the most important examples of House-Museum in Venice (maybe in all Italy, but this is my personal opinion). The collection is composed by paintings, furniture and objects of everyday life and personal effects of the Querini family. It hosts around 400 paintings collected  by the family during the centuries, several valuable sculptures, 34 antique drawings attributed to the schools of Giovanni Bellini and Tiziano a rich collection of musical instruments and manuscripts and much more (open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm, 10€)

Follow the street until you reach Campo Santa Maria Formosa. This large campo is surrounded by noble palaces given that once it was a very rich area, just behind Piazza San Marco.

Some notes about the Palazzo and architecture. The Venetian Gothic style evolved during the period between the 14th and the 1st half of the 15th Century. As the city grew in wealth and power this growth was directly reflected in the size and richness of their palaces until, in the late 15th Century, the Venetian Gothic gave way to Renaissance. Some Byzantine feature still remained. For example in the square you can see Palazzo Donà, a 13th Century palace (remodelled in the 16th  Century) in Venetian Gothic style, with pointed arch windows that originally came from the Moors. On the other side of the square, near Ponte della Ruga Giuffa, there is Palazzo Malipiero, an important Renaissance palace with a traditional tripartite façade, built in the 16th Century. Here there are no more Gothic influences but just Renaissance features.

The Palazzo had two distinctive function: they were the trading base of merchant patricians and also the residence of the same noble and his family. The Palazzo was not just the patrician’s home, but it had to show his social position. For this reason they are extremely decorated and well-finished. At the same time, to have some architectural cohesion and to prevent nobles from showing their wealth too much, sumptuary laws restricted over the top ornamental and other exaggerated decorations. The Republic wanted to show its power not to show off its richness. In fact Venice proclaimed itself the Capital of Christianity, the city that defeated the Muslims, the city elected by God to be a sort of new Jerusalem. So it was very important to find a balance between show richness and power and to be admired for the strong religious values and the perfect government.

One unusual characteristic of Venice’s palaces is that they don’t face the streets but the water, since Venice’s canals were the streets. And remember that many of the streets that you walk on today in Medieval and Renaissance Venice didn’t exist. When the train station was built in the 19th Century, the government decided to fill in many canals to create several new campi and calli.

Palazzo Ruzzini, that close the campo on the North side, is a late 16th Century palace. You can see that this palazzo, like many other in Venice, has two big, funny-shaped chimneys, in the form of an upside-down cone. Fire was a very frequent event in Venice, and because of all the wood used in construction and especially because of the so narrow calles it spread quickly. As a result, the chimneys were designed to keep embers from escaping.

So, about the Church of Santa Maria Formosa: tradition claims that the Virgin Mary appeared to St Magnus, Bishop of Oderzo, in the form of a beautiful, voluptuous (formosa in Italian) woman and told him to build a church dedicated to her. And so the first church in Venice dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built here in the 7th Century. It was rebuilt in the 11th Century, and again in 1492 by Mauro Codussi, the architect of the present church.
The church was visited by the doge every year and a procession of twelve young girls took place here every 2nd of February. That procession, called ‘delle Marie’, was to commemorate the rescue of some brides abducted by pirates from Istria and Trieste in 944. Santa Maria Formosa was the centre for the guild of casselleri (that means casemakers) who carried out the rescue and for that reason was visited by the doge every year (open Monday -Saturday, 10am-5pm).

Take Calle Larga Santa Maria Formosa and follow it until you will see an amazing library called ‘Libreria Acqua Alta’ (open everyday 9am-8pm). I think it is the most beautiful library in the world. There are books and magazines everywhere and in one room there is a gondola stacked with books. Other books are in smaller boats, canoes and also in a bathtub. On the back is a little courtyard facing the canal with a table and some chairs where you can relax and read something, maybe together with the owner’s cats. Recently they built there a stair made of books that you can climb to enjoy the view.libreria_small

Come back to Calle Larga Santa Maria Formosa and turn right in the direction of the Campo, but, before reaching the square, turn right into Calle Trevisana. Go along this calle, cross Ponte Minch and follow Calle Bressana that leads you to Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Go right in front of the main façade of the church to admire its majesty. This is the splendid church of the Dominican order, just as the Frari is for the Franciscans.

The history of the church begins in 1234 with a dream of the doge Jacopo Tiepolo who had a vision of God who said: “This is the chosen place for my preachers,” referring to the Dominican friars. So he started here the construction of this Dominican church.

This is one of the largest churches in the city and one of the most important. After the 15th Century the funeral services of all of Venice’s doges were held here, and twenty-five doges are buried in the church. You will see the tombs inside.

The façade (unfinished) is a fine example of Venetian Gothic style but both portals are enriched with Renaissance elements and decorations. Over the door you can see the so called ocio, that means eye in Venetian dialect, a sort of  porphyry tympanum that looks like an open eye. Porphyry was one of the more resistant material known and it alludes to the eternity of God’s gaze because it never perish.

During the night of 15-16 August 1867 a big fire destroyed the Chapel of the Rosary and 34 canvases including outstanding masterpieces. Then at the beginning of the 20th Century the church was restored.

On you left looking toward the church you can see the old Scuola di San Marco, one of the six Scuole Grandi, created in 1260 for religious and humanitarian purposes, to house the poor and orphan girls that were educated here. It was destroyed by a fire in the middle 15th Century and then rebuilt under a new design by Pietro Lombardo, later completed by Mauro Codussi..

In 1810, after Napoleon invasion, the Scuola Grande di San Marco and the monastery (behind the Scuola) became a military hospital and from that moment on used as the main Venetian Civic Hospital (still is Venice hospital). You can enter and go upstairs to visit the Museum of the History of Medicine in the Sala dell’Albergo, the main room with a beautiful golden panelled ceiling (free entrance, Tuesday-Saturday, 9.30am-1pm, 2pm-5pm).

ospedale_smallIn the square you can also see a big equestrian monument dedicated to Colleoni, a great mercenary captain who became captain-general of the Republic of Venice. At his death in 1475, he left a large sum of money to the Republic for the war against the Turkish, with a request that an equestrian statue of himself should be erected in Piazza San Marco. The statue was made by Andrea del Verrocchio in bronze but, as no monument was permitted in Piazza San Marco, it was placed here near the Scuola Grande di San Marco.

Ok, let’s go inside the Basilica (open Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 1pm-6pm, fee 2,50€). The interior of the church is majestic. The plant building is a Latin cross with three naves and a cruise, supported by 5 big columns of Istrian stone on each side. The dimensions of the Church of San Giovanni e Paolo (about 100 m long and 50 m wide), are almost similar to that of the Frari.

We already said that this is the burial place of twenty-five doge. The tombs had to show the importance and the power of the men buried and of their families, so the more sumptuous is the tomb, the more important was the man sleeping inside. Especially notable are the three for the Mocinego doges on the entrance wall. The one on the left is of Doge Pietro Mocenigo and was designed by Pietro Lombardo. It glorifies the Doge’s military victories using Christian themes. The tomb on the right is of Doge Giovanni Mocenigo it was designed by Tullio Lombardo, the elder son of Pietro. The tomb in the middle is of Doge Alvise I Mocenigo and his wife Loredana Marcello.

On your right, after the entrance, there is the Poliptic of Vincenzo Ferrer by Giovanni Bellini, dated about 1470. Originally it was in the church of San Giovannino but brought here after the fire destroyed an other important painting of Bellini. Vincenzo Ferrer was a Spanish Dominican friar very active in diffuse the word of Jesus between the Spanish unbeliever so he is represented with an open book, in the middle. On the left there is St. Christopher and on the right St. Sebastian. On the upper side are the Archangel Gabriel, a Pietà with dead Jesus supported by two angels, and then the Virgin Mary in the moment of her Annunciation, as on the other side there is the Archangel Gabriel. It is a reminder of Venice origin, so frequent in Venetian painting.

On the lower side are represented three miracles of St. Vincenzo: starting from the left is St. Vincenzo saving a drowned woman, saving some men under the ruins, saving the soul of a guilty man and woman, resuscitating a dead child and releasing prisoners.

Follow the nave in the direction of the main altar. You will find the chapel dedicated to Beato Giacomo, that has Gothic origins but renovated in 1639. The vault is embellished with paintings by Gian Battista Lorenzetti epresenting Jesus the Redeemer and three personages from the Old Testament. The glass urn above the altar contains the mortal remains of  Giacomo Salomoni (1231-1314) a Dominican son of the adjacent convent, usually invoked against tumours.

On the floor in front of the chapel is the grave of Alvise Diedo, who in 1453 saved the Venetian fleet at Constantinople.

Following the nave, there is the Mausoleo Valier designed by Andrea Tirali. Between four Corinthian columns is a yellow marble drapery and the statues of Doge Bertuccio Valer, Doge Silvestro, his son, and Bertuccio’s wife, the Dogaressa Elisabetta Querini.

Immediately after the Mausoleo is the Chapel dedicated to the Madonna della Pace. It was given to the Dominicans by Paolo Morosini in 1503, placed there in the 19th Century, after the suppression in 1806 of the Scuola of the same name which had its chapel in the first cloister of the adjacent convent. On the altar is a Byzantine icon brought to Venice in 1349.

The next Chapel is dedicated to St. Dominic. On the ceiling there is the Glory of St. Dominic painted by Piazzetta in 1727, one of the best works of 18th Century Venice. The painting was thoroughly restored in 1968-69.

Before reaching the right arm of the transept there is a small 15th Century altar with a porphyry altarpiece. Originally it belonged to the demolished choir enclosure, then, in 1961 it was touched up to serve for an exceptional relic: a foot of St. Catherine of Siena, a patron saint of Italy.

In the right transept is dominated by Lorenzo Lotto altarpece representing Saint Antonino charity, dated about 1540. Lorenzo Lotto, born in Venice, worked a lot outside the city because it was not so appreciate here. Maybe he was to much modern for Venice at that time of its history, maybe not enough celebratory. He is famous for his beautiful portraits, and also in this altarpiece you can see how expressive are his faces. St. Antonino, bishop of Florence, is on the top of the triangle, kissed by two angels, and two helpers are collecting the supplicant requests and providing money. The action is very practical and realistic, there is no magic and no God participation. The man collecting the supplications, with one hand is taking a paper, and with the other is waiting another supplicant. The man giving money is choosing carefully the poor to help. This is not like Titian or Tintoretto altarpieces where light, colour, impressing figures create a touching atmosphere. Lotto is describing a moment through images and this is not what the Republic was searching for during the Counter Reformation.

Then you can see the Chapel of the Crucifixion. This chapel was the seat of the Scuola of St. Jerome, also called of the condemned because they took care of those condemned to death, whose cemetery was behind the apse of the chapel. The altar in black marble is by Alessandro Vittoria and the Carrara marble Crucifix is by Francesco Cavrioli. To the right is the monument to the English baron Edward Windsor who died in Venice in 1574, attributed to Alessandro Vittoria. To the left is the 14th Century urn, maybe the one of Paolo Loredan, who in 1365, cooperated in the repression of Candia.

The next chapel is called Chapel of the Magdalene, because of a 16th Century statue of the Magdalene designed by Bartolomeo di Francesco from Bergamo. Near the window the Four Evangelists, a fresco attributed to Palma il Giovane. On the right wall there is a monument to Vittor Pisani (dead in 1380), a famous military hero who fought against the Genoese at the battle of Chioggia. On the left wall is the14th Century urn of Marco Giustiniani della Bragora (dead in 1347) and on the left side of the urn you can see a sepulchral pyramid dedicated the painter Melchior Lanza. In the middle the Virgin and Child.

The presbytery is illuminated by beautiful narrow mullioned Gothic windows. In the centre is the high altar in Baroque style begun in 1619, a work of Mattia Carnero from Trentino. It is enriched with statues of the Virgin of the Rosary with Child (on the top), of St. Dominic and of St. Catherine of Siena, and of SS. John and Paul. In front of the first step are the tombs of ten Dominican bishops, sons of the convent.

On the right wall you can see the Monument to doge Michele Morosini (dead in1382). Above the urn, enclosed by an arch is a 15th Century mosaic representing the Crucifixion with, on the left, the Virgin Mary and the archangel Michael presenting the kneeling doge. On the right is SS. John the Evangelist and John the Baptist presenting the kneeling dogaressa, the wife of the doge.
Then is the Monument to doge Leonardo Loredan (dead in 1521) erected in1572 by Girolamo Grapiglia. Here are the statue of the doge Loredan, the allegorical statues of Venice (on the left), the League of Cambrai (on the right), the Abundance and the Peace (between the columns).

On the left wall there is the Monument to doge Andrea Vendramin (dead in 1478) by Tullio Lombardo. Under the arch appears the doge supported by two eagles and a winged wheel and surrounded by three young candle-bearers, while round the sepulchral urn are the three theological, and the four cardinal virtues.

Let’s go to the next chapel, called Chapel of the Holy Trinity. The altarpiece was painted by Leandro da Bassano, on the left wall are two canvases by Giuseppe Porta called il Salviati representing the Crucifixion with the Holy Women and the Risen Christ and saints. On the right wall is the Doubting of Thomas, also by Leandro da Bassano.

After that there is the Chapel of St. Pius V. The altarpiece with the Dominican pope is by the school of Paolo Veronese.
On the right is the urn of Jacopo Cavalli, commander of the Venetian army during the war of Chioggia. The warrior’s head is laid on a lion and at his feet is a mastiff, symbol of strength and loyality. The big fresco was made by Lorenzo di Tiziano, nephew and imitator of the great Titian, in the 16th Century.

Now enter in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary (after the glass door). Built by the Scuola of the Rosary in 1582, it was dedicated to the victory of Lepanto (7 October 1571, the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary).

On the night of 15 – 16 August 1867 a serious fire destroyed the chapel, the wooden ceiling with its paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto, Palma il Giovane, Leandro Corona, and about 34 other paintings by the same artists and others. By sad coincidence ad that time were also hosted here for restoration Titian’s Martyrdom of St. Peter and Giovanni Bellini’s Virgin and Saints. On 4 October 1959 the restored chapel was finally reopened.

The chapel is divided into two parts, the nave and the sanctuary. The amazing ceiling of the nave presents paintings by Carlo Lorenzetti and three masterpieces by Veronese, the Adoration of the pastors, the Assumption and the Annunciation. You can see that Veronese was not just a painter but also an ‘architect of images’ as he always included beautiful classic architectonical elements in his paintings. He used very light and fresh colours, very different from Tintoretto. Now the paintings are a little dirty, but they still express calm and serenity. Both these painting were transferred to Vienna after Napoleon invasion but returned in 1925.

On the end walls, to the left on entering, is a second version of the Adoration of the pastors by Veronese. In the central group there is Christ Child with his head on a wicker basket, and three pastors, together with the donkey and the ox, creating a semicircle on the left. Beautiful and extremely human, in the wide gesture, the Virgin on the right.

In the presbytery, the marvellous ceiling continues from the nave and includes other masterpieces by Veronese. In the centre the Adoration of the Magi, and at the sides, the Four Evangelists. The altar is in the form of small classical temple surmounted by cupola, designed by Gerolamo Campagna. On the end wall is the Assumption by Salviati, a painting inspired by the masterpiece on the same subject by Titian at the Frari Church.

Leaving the chapel and following the right left aisle, there is an other room, the sacristy. The sacristy door way is part of the funeral monument that Palma il Giovane wanted erected for himself, Palma il Vecchio and Titian. It was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, while Jacopo Alberelli carved the bust of the two Palma, and  Alessandro Vittoria that of Titian. Palma il Giovane himself, who lies under the marble slab in the pavement, painted the Allegory of Fame overhead. All the paintings in the sacristy were made to celebrate the Dominican Order and were commissioned between the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th Century. On the ceiling, Marco Vecellio, nephew and follower of Titian, painted SS. Dominic and Francis interceding for sinners. On the altar wall, on the right, is the Resurrection by Palma il Giovane; in the middle by the same artist, Dominican saints and other adoring the Crucifixion, and on the left, Dominicans saints kissing the wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Odoardo Fialetti.

Coming out of the Sacristy is the Renaissance monument dedicated to doge Pasquale Malipiero (dead in 1462) by Pietro Lombardo. In the lunette there is a Pietà, and the three statues representing JusticeAbundance and Peace.

Then is the monument to senator Giambattista Bonzi (dead in1518) attributed to Gian Maria Mosca. On the face of the urn are the four virtues: TemperanceHopeJustice and Charity; above is Faith. In the first arch on the right, you can see the tomb of doge Michele Steno (dead in 1413), and in the second arch is the tomb of Alvise Trevisan (dead in 1528), that left the convent his rich library.

The equestrian monument in golden wood is dedicated to the general Pompeo Giustiniani, also called the iron fist, a Genoese in the service of the Venetian Republic died in 1616.

Then is the monument dedicated to doge Tommaso Mocenigo (dead in 1423). It is a beautiful transitional work between Gothic and the Renaissance period with some Venetian elements and also Florentine forms. There is a baldachin on which are floral motive flanked by two lions, then a large architectonic panel with six saints in niches, and on the front of the sarcophagus there are figures representing the theological and cardinal virtues.

Going on you can see the monument to doge Nicolò Marcello by Pietro Lombardo, and then a Renaissance altar with the big painting representing The Martyrdom of St. Peter by Nicolò Cassala, a copy of Titian’s masterpiece destroyed in the fire of 1867.

The equestrian monument in Baroque style is dedicated to Orazio Baglioni (dead in 1617), a general of Venetian army.

Now I think we can continue our itinerary outside. Once out of the Church, go left and then take Ponte delle Erbe on your right.

From the bridge you could have a beautiful view of the hospital and the church. You can also see Palazzo Dandolo, the white palace with three big chimney, built in 17th Century. Now cross the bridge and go along Calle delle Erbe until the second Ponte delle Erbe. Turn left, cross Ponte del Cristo and then you are in Campo Santa Marina.

Once there was a church here, but it was destroyed at the beginning of the 19th Century. The church was built when the body of St. Marina (St. Margareth of Antiochia) was brought to Venice so the church and the campo were dedicated to her.

The painter Giovanni Bellini and his family lived in the parish of Santa Marina.

On the South-West corner of the campo there is a sottoportego that leads into Calle Sacaleta. Go over it and follow the calle until the other sottoportego on your left side. This is the small Corte Specchiera and there is one of my favourite bacaro (close everyday from 3pm to 5pm and on Monday morning). It is also a small restaurant so you can sit and enjoy a lunch or a dinner, but if you just want to take a break and try some Venetian specialities, this is the right place. An ombra is about 1€, spritz 2€, prosecco 2,50€, chicchetti from 1,50€. Try their Baccalà alla Vicentina, a typical dish  made from stoccafisso (stockfish) with milk, olive oil, Grana and other secret ingrediens..it takes a very long preparation but the result is delicious! Also their Baccalà Mantecato is very good. Like the other is made from stockfish but it requires a different preparation and taste and consistency are very different. Whatever you like, here everything is delicious.

Go over the sottoportego on the other side of the courtyard, and go straight until the Ponte del Pistor, cross it and follow the calle to reach Campo San Lio. The church (open everyday 9am-12pm) was built in the 9th Century by the Badoer family and it was first named St Catherine of Alexandria. Then, in 1054, it was dedicated to St Leone (san Lio in Venetian dialect) in honor of pope Leo IX, who had supported Venice in a dispute between the Doge Contarini and the Patriarch of Aquileia over who had supremacy over the region of Grado. The church was renovated in the 16th Century and also at the end of the 18th Century. Inside you can see some great artworks including the ceiling fresco of The Apotheosis of St Leo in Glory by Tiepolo, a beautiful altarpiece by Palma Giovane and a late and damaged, but still impressive, Titian painting of the Apostle James. The church of St. Leone was visited every year by the Scuola of San Giovanni Evangelista, one of the six Scuole Grandi, because they believed that a miracle took place here. A legend says that one day a member of the school, talking about the big cross that they have to carry during funerals and processions, told to a colleague that he had no more wish to bear it because it was too heavy. Sometime later, during a procession the same man was carrying the cross as usual but suddenly it became so heavy that no one could move it. The man was oppressed by the cross and died under its heaviness.

Go straight and follow the narrow Calle della Fava that means St Mary of the Bean (open Monday-Saturday: 8.30am-11.30am, 4.30pm-7pm). At the end, on the right is Campo della Fava. The calle, the campo and the next bridge take their name from an old tradition that goes back to the ancient Roman who used to read funerals letters standing on the petals of a bean flower (fava means bean). They believed that the soul of the dead moved to the beans so they used to eat them in funerals banquets. Venetians continued the tradition and on November 2nd, the day of the dead, they ate beans. Since patricians were not very greedy of beans, as they are a poor vegetable, they replaced them with small candies with the same name made by a nearby bakery.

Originally the church was just a wooden chapel built in 1480 to house a icon of the Madonna. In 1701 they got permission from the doge to restore and enlarge the church so in 1705 work began but the façade was never finished. The tall door case has a large pediment featuring a shell, a symbol of the Virgin. Inside you can see The Education of the Virgin (first altar on the right), an early Tiepolo work. This painting was stolen on the night of 14th December 1993. but luckily it was found intact three months later.

Cross Ponte della Fava, then follow calle del Galizzo and turn left into Calle dei Stagneri. At the end of the calle turn right into Marzaria San Salvador to reach Campo San Salvador.

The origin and history of the Church of S. Salvador (open Monday-Saturday: 9am-12pm and 3pm-6am. Sunday: 3pm-7pm. The afternoon hours are shorter, 4pm-6 pm, from June to August, free entrance) dates back to the 7th Century and it has a legendary origin. It is said that Jesus appeared in a dream to the Bishop S. Magnus and asked him to build a Church, showing him where it was to be constructed. The place was in the very heart of the future city of Venice, which didn’t exist at that time. It was to dedicate it to Him, the Saviour of the World (il Salvatore in Italian). The present church was begun in 1506 to designs by Giorgio Spavento, with Tullio Lombardo supervising. Then in 1532 Tullio Lombardo died and Jacopo Sansovino was responsible for the completion of work. The façade was rebuilt between 1649-63 to a design by Giuseppe Sardi.

Below the left column on the facade, there is a cannonball embedded in the base of the column. It derived from a bombardment in 1849 by Austrian forces.

The interior is designed on mathematical principals, based on the proportion of 2:1. In the chapel to the right of the apse, the remains of St Theodore, Venice’s original patron saint, are hosted. Inside you can see the beautiful altarpiece of the Annunciation by Titian, on the right aisle just before the right transept. The painting represents a scene from the life of Christ, when the Virgin Marry is advised that she is carrying the child of God. To fully understand this painting you need to know some details about Titian’s life. Titian lived during the Counter Reformation, but he was hostile to the Catholic and bureaucratic rules and aimed for a more spiritual religion, more clear, understandable and more personal. He followed the Evangelical belief, as he hoped for a religion based on Christ and not on the Church, without impositions. Not just Titian, but lots of painters of the time chose that point of view.

On the right, near the Virgin, it is written IGNIS ARDENS NON COMBURENS, but now the picture is a little dark and dirty so maybe you wouldn’t be able to read it. The phrase means burning but non consuming fire. It is a quote from Exodus related to Mary’s untouched virginity, in spite of she is a mother. But other elements in the picture seem to deny the Catholic dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, just like the Evangelical doctrine which believe that Jesus Chris had brothers (to be more precise for the Catholic church Giuseppe was widow when he met Mary and Jesus had just half-brothers, but for the Evangelic thought those brother were sons of Mary and Joseph). The more telling symbol is the pitcher, usually full of clean water and associated to Mary’s purity. Generally painters were very careful in painting a very clean and transparent pitcher to distinguish it from the dark pitcher that goes with Mary Magdalene (that symbolize the oils used during the feet washing). Here the pitcher is not transparent but dark and full of flowers in flames, apparently referring to the quote (he had to justify in some way his daring choice) but he remain ambiguous, because these are not just flames, but burning flowers and a burning flowers have always been the main symbol of passion.

An other interesting detail is the lack of the lilium always delivered from Gabriel to Mary, and the most important symbol of her virginity. Then there is Mary that look toward the angel raising her veil. This gesture is very ambiguous because traditionally associated to marriage (even today), when women were allowed to reveal their face. Than other small details, such as the young age and beauty of both the characters, the seductive Mary’s foot under her dress, her pronounced breast, her pulpy lips and her gaze that is not scared or surprised as usual, but a kind of satisfied, a little languid.

This interpretation is not accepted by all art historian. For some of them  Mary is lifting up her scarf and showing the angel her ear because that was the organ through which the holy spirit entered and impregnated her. But I don’t think that she is showing Gabriel her ear. In any case this painting is one of the few late Titian’s masterpiece remaining in Venice, and even if you know nothing about art, it will impress you.

On the wall in the right transept there is the funeral monument to Caterina Cornaro. Caterina Cornaro belonged to one of the richest and most influential patrician families of the Serenissima. She was born in 1454 and very young was given as bride to Giacomo Lusignano II (Jacques II), King of Cyprus and Armenia. Their marriage had a great political importance because the Republic now could conduct a primary role on the island and so control the Eastern Mediterranean.
A year after the marriage she remained a widow and also her son died, victim of a conspiracy. So in 1489 Caterina decided to cede her realm to the Republic of Venice. She sailed to Venice where she received the territory of Asolo, a beautiful little city in the countryside where she spent the rest of her life. On 10 July 1510 she died in Venice. The monument here illustrates a very important event: the Queen of Cyprus ceding her crown to the Venetian Doge. The monument celebrates her devotion to the Republic, and consequently the devotion of all her family given that in Venice, all the members of a family were considered part of the same, exclusive club.

Say good-bye to Caterina Cornaro and, once out of the church, turn right.

The nearby campo is called Campo San Bartolomeo or just San Bortolo. Looking toward Rialto Bridge, on the left of the campo, you will see the façade of the Church of San Bartolomeo. It isn’t easy to distinguish the church by the surrounding buildings and shops, but its campanile is well visible. The church was founded around 830, and was originally dedicated to Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki. In 1170 the church was rebuilt, dedicated to San Bartolomeo, and from the 13th Century onwards used by German merchants for baptisms and funerals but also for their secretly observed Protestant beliefs. The church was rebuilt again in the 18th Century on a designs of Giovanni Scalfarotto. It was closed and deconsecrated in the early 18th Century and from then used for exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events. Almost all the works of art were removed when the church was deconsecrated. As the church was used by the German community, in 1506 Dürer painted for it the Madonna of the Rosary now in the National Gallery in Prague.

Right in the middle of the campo is the Statue of Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793), a brilliant Venetian playwright and librettist. To put the statue here in 1883 some houses were demolished.

I’d like to finish our tour on Venice most famous bridge, one of its symbols and so on the Canal Grande, its main road, its vibrating heart. Go toward Rialto Bridge and start to cross it until the top.

The first Ponte di Rialto was a pontoon bridge built around 1175 over boats by Niccolò Barattieri, the same man that built the columns in St. Mark Square. It was known as Ponte della Moneta (the coin bridge) because anyone crossing it had to pay a fee. The development and importance of the market on the other side of the bridge increased traffic on the bridge, so it was replaced in 1255 by a wooden bridge that lasted until 1310 when it collapsed during Tiepolo’s plot. During the first half of the 15th Century, two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge and then, in 1444, it collapsed again under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade. The idea of rebuilding the bridge in marble was first proposed in 1503. Several projects were considered over the following decades and plans were offered by famous architects such as Jacopo Sansovino, Palladio, Vignola, and Michelangelo. The project designed by Antonio da Ponte was the one chosen and in 1588 works begun on this marble bridge, requiring three years and 250000 ducats (that was a lot of maney). The bridge is a single span of 28 meters and 7,5 meters high, divided into three semi-separate passages by two series of arcades with shops. The stone foundation lies on 10 meters long wooden piles. The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted its future ruin but he bridge is still here and is one of the architectural icons of Venice.

Coming from Campo San Bartolomeo, on your right you can see the façade of the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, built in the 16th Century. The building was the head-quarters of the three camerlenghi, magistres appointed to deal with the state finances. The ground floor there was the state debtors’ prison.

On the other side you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Canal Grande. The bridge cross the canal in its middle and from this privileged point of view, I wish you a great time in Venice.

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