NOTE: I have been working on this post for more than four hours. I am hampered by an incredibly slow and off again on again internet. Before I turn into a crazy person, I am going to stop this post before we have even gotten to lunch and hopefully return to it tomorrow when the wifi might be more responsive.)
For me, ascending and descending stairs has been difficult due to an injured knee. Walking is fine but stairs are bad. My friend and trainer, Vernon, taught me some techniques for going up stairs which mostly work but going down is hard. So John holds on to me as I creep down the stairs amidst tourists and Venetians who need to be some place in a hurry and go much faster than I. It’s humiliating and exhausting.
That being said, we are out early this morning to see churches where much of the art in Venice lives full time. A Chorus Pass gets you into about 20 churches where you get an information card (in English!) and the church is generally lighted. Sarah has planned us a long route through most of Venice to see as many as possible.
Our first church is San Stefano. It is open. We go in. There are only janitors here. I have looked on the internet and the information says that all the Chorus Churches open at 9:30. Sarah points out that on our brochure it says they open at 10:30 and the sign in the church says that St. Stefano opens at 10. The church is unlit and it is really hard to see anything. My bad. We are off to a rocky start. Now we have to waste an hour. So we do typical touristy things. We take pictures of each other and canals and look at store windows and go in churches that appear open.
Our wanderings take us through Piazza San Marco and past the gorgeous Basilica San Marco. St. Mark is the patron saint of Venice. The Venetians stole his bones from Alexandria. Apparently that was a done thing in days of yore. Anyway, this is the first time we have ever seen the Basilica without scaffolding on the front. Yay! We plan to see the basilica tomorrow when the interior is lighted for two hours.
The Basilica used to be the private place of worship for the doge, the ruler of Venice. His palace connects to it.
We stop at San Zaccaria since it is open and is supposed to hold some interesting art, we venture in. We are not disappointed. “Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Four Saints over the second altar on the left is one of his very best. It was painted in 1505 when Bellini was about 74. This was the same year that Albrecht Dürer on a visit to Venice described him as ‘very old and still the best in painting’.” Churches of Venice.co.uk The painting is quite beautiful.
For 1.5E we gain entrance to the crypt, a worthwhile investment. Here many doges are entombed and the chapels are festooned with beautiful artwork.
After a very enjoyable visit to San Zaccaria we stop for cappuccini in a nearby cafe. Unfortunately it has a bathroom unfriendly to American women. After our little sit-down we follow our tour guide, Sarah, down narrow alleys and quiet canals to the Church of Santa Maria Formosa.
“Tradition has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to San Magno, Bishop of Oderzo, in the form of a buxom (formosa in Italian) woman and told him to build her a church under a white cloud. And so this, the first church in Venice dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built, some time in the 7th Century by the Tribuno family.” Churchesofvenice.co.uk The current church was built in 1492 on the footprint of the older one. Finally we are in one of the churches that we bought the Chorus Pass for and are rewarded by an information card and a lighted church. Three highlights of what we saw –
From here we head to Santa Maria dei Miracoli. In 1408 Francesco Amadi commissioned a painting of the BVM and placed it in a tabernacle in front of his house. It became an overnight sensation with the populace praying to the portrait and saying that it had miraculous powers. Contributions came flowing in to build a church for the painting and thus the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli was founded.
It is the only free standing church in Venice. The interior has a few statues and a lot of marble. The main focus is on the painting of the Blessed Virgin.
On our way over to the other side of the canal we pass the miracle of the three gondolas picture and the Rialto Bridge.
To be continued…