Sestiere Di Cannaregio

THE Sestiere di Cannaregio includes all that part of Venice to the north of the Grand Canal between the railway station and SS. Giovanni and Paolo and S. Giovanni Crisostomo. Here we have a great district, through which passes the Cannaregio and in which of old the Ghetto stood, but which is today, I suppose, the part of Venice least frequented by the stranger and the poorest in great churches and monuments, yet it includes the SS. Apostoli, the Gesuiti, S. Maria dei Miracoli, the Palazzo Giovanelli, the whole stretch of the Fondamenta Nuova, the Madonna del Orto, S. Marcuola, S. Felice, to say nothing of the broadest thoroughfare in Venice, the Via Vittorio Emanuele. The Palaces on that part of the Grand Canal in this district include the Palazzo Vendramin and the Cà d’ Oro, and are in no way either in number or splendour inferior to those in any other part of Venice. Yet it cannot he denied that this is the poorest of the sestieri to the north of the Grand Canal, and that in its general character it may be better compared with the southern sestieri than with either S. Marco or Castello.

In order to explore this wide region one does well to set outfrom the Piazza di S. Marco for the Rialto either by steamer, gondola, or on foot by the Merceria. Arrived at the foot of the Rialto bridge in the Piazza di S. Bartolommeo with its statue of Goldoni, one follows the Merceria, or rather the continuation of it, past S. Giovanni Crisostomo, when, after crossing a canal, one turns sharply to the right to come in a few minutes into the Campo di S. Canciano before the church of that name. This church is supposed to have owed its foundation to the fugitives from Aquileia; but as we see it, it is, of course, of much later foundation, the façade, for instance, dating from 1760. Nothing of interest remains within the church, but close by at the other end of the Campo stands one of the most beautiful architectural treasures of the city—I mean the church of S. Maria dei Miracoli. This was built in 1480 by Angelo Amadi, the nephew of Elena Badoer, ” the most beautiful Venetian of her day,” who lived close by in this quarter. He built it to receive a picture of the Madonna supposed to be miraculous, which Francesco Amadi, his uncle, the husband of the beautiful Elena, had painted, concerning which there was a considerable litigation. For it seems that in order to satisfy the crowds who came to worship it, this picture had been hung in a shrine built into the wall of a house here belonging to the Barozzi, so that in time they claimed possession of the picture. It was for this reason that Angelo Amadi, when the case was won, built the church of S. Maria dei Miracoli by the hands of Pietro Lombardo to house the picture, which was still venerable. There is no other Renaissance church in Venice to compare with this ; both within and without it is altogether lovely, nor can we sufficiently praise its quadrangular domed choir uplifted above the nave, its beautiful ambones, the fine barrel vaulting with its gilded coffers by Girolamo da Treviso, nor the rich marble and carvings with which Pietro Lombardo adorned it.

Returning past S. Canciano westward over the Ponte S Canciano through the Morosini quarter, where that great family had so many of its houses, from the Palazzo Falier, where Doge Marino Falier had his house, to SS. Apostoli, a church founded by S. Magno, as the tradition tells us, at the request of the twelve Apostles, who appeared to him in a vision and bade him build a church in their honour where he should observe twelve cranes to assemble. This early building, if it ever existed, had totally disappeared in the sixteenth century, when another church was built here, to be itself destroyed and rebuilt in the eighteenth century, and, indeed, all that remains of the sixteenth-century church is the chapel of the Corner family. Two pictures of much interest and beauty remain there : an altarpiece of the Communion of S. Lucy, an exquisite but restored work by Tiepolo, and to the left of the choir a work by Paolo Veronese, the Manna in the Wilderness.

It is here by SS. Apostoli that we enter that broad way, the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which was opened in 1871-1872. Here on the right is the church of S. Sofia, of an old foundation, rebuilt in 1698. We pass the backs of the Palazzi Sagredo and Cà d’ Oro, and then on the right a Campo opens, into which we turn. Quite at the end of it we tunn left and then right, and keep on our way till after crossing two canals we come presently out on the Fondamenta Nuova. These splendid quays were built of stone in 1589, when this part of Venice was thought to be wonderfully healthy and was much frequented.’ Today it is quite deserted by the well-to-do classes, and is delivered over to the poor, but even they do not seem to care for it, and the place is neglected. It looks on the cemetery island and beyond to Murano, and it is from here that the steamers ply to Murano, Burano, and Torcello. At the end of the Fondamenta where we stand we see across the waters of the Sacca della Misericordia the Casino degli Spiriti, a lovely building that stands in the garden of the Contarini del Zaffo, and was built by them at the end of the sixteenth century, and is said and believed by all Venice to be haunted. And, in fact, there is something strange and weird, if only in the extraordinary echo that haunts the house and garden, so that you cannot wander there without hearing sudden breathless voices that doubtless by some trick of nature or of art come from the Fondamenta, which yet ever seems too far away for any voice to be borne thence to this lonely and deserted abode. The story goes that long and long ago one of the Contarini lived here with his wife, who bore him a child, to whom his friend who had acted as groomsman at his wed-ding stood as godfather or compare di S. Giovanni, a relationship only less close and sacred than that of father. Now it happened that by and by the lady and the compare fell violently in love, and as this relationship was, even in Venetian society, impossible, being indeed a kind of incest, all three—for the husband was aware of it—lived in complete misery. In this misery the lover died, perhaps by his own hand, and hearing this and missing him the lady died also. At the point of death she called to her her maid and bade her see that none but she should watch beside her bier, and when she was assured of this she sighed a little and briefly departed. Now as the maid watched beside her dead mistress, the room being lighted by four torches, one at each corner of the bed, as she mumbled her prayers, even at midnight, the door opened, and she saw the lover enter slowly and softly as ghosts move. She saw him go to the bed where her dead lady lay and raise her up. And she rose, and saying nothing, began to dress; then taking her by the hand, the ghost led the way, the lady followed, and the maid, seizing a torch, followed also to see what would befall. And they went down into the roots of the house to the last and coldest cellar. There suddenly the lover struck the torch from the maid’s hand and she fell down in a swoon. Such is the tale. But there are good reasons why the Casa degli Spiriti should be reputed haunted without pinning our faith to such a poor story as that. To begin with, it is lonely and set in a misty world that is often lost in the fog of the half dead lagoon when the other side of Venice is in the sun. Then for many years the Venetians were wont to rest their dead just here on their way to S. Michele, and beside all this, it is known to have been a haunt of smugglers for many years—of smugglers who would use all their ingenuity to invent, or to encourage belief in, such a story as that I have set out above. None of these tales, however, would seem to explain the fact that even today and in the sunlight the Casa degli Spiriti is a weird and curious place where, as you make your way through garden or house, you will often be astonished by a voice at your elbow, by a step at your side for which you will most assuredly be at a loss to account.

As one passes along the Fondamenta one presently sees the great statues of the façade of the Church of the Gesuiti up against the sky. It is but a step down a street on the right to the church door. As we see it, the church could, I sup-pose, have been created by no one but the Jesuits; it is so utterly barbarous in its flaming vulgarity and crude, insolent assurance, its flamboyant splendour. But there was a church here in the twelfth century which belonged to the Crociferi. The place was bought in 1657 on the second expulsion of the Crociferi by the Jesuits, who rebuilt the church as we see it. Their society was suppressed in 1773 in Venice and their convent turned into a barracks. They returned, however, in 1844. Like the cancer, to which Cardinal Manning likened them, they are hard to extirpate, yet with perseverance even this will be accomplished, and the Church from being a Jesuit sect become once more Catholic. There is not much now in the church to attract us. Of old, Tintoretto’s Presentation in the Temple hung here, but it has been carried away to the Accademia. There still remain, however, in the left transept an Assumption from his hand, and better still, in the first chapel on the left in the nave, a dark, spoilt work of Titian’s, the Martyrdom of S. Lorenzo, painted in 1538. This picture was ordered, as is supposed, by Elisabetta, widow of Lorenzo Massolo, to decorate the chapel her husband had built to S. Lorenzo in the convent of the Crociferi in Venice. Nothing can be made of this once splendid work today. In the chapel on the left of the High Altar in this church the Doge Pasquale Cicogna (1595) is buried; his tomb is adorned with his statue by Campagna. Close by the Gesuiti is the Church of S. Caterina, where over the High Altar is a splendid and enchanting work by Paolo Veronese, the Marriage of S. Catherine.

From S. Caterina we return to the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, and follow it across the Rio di S. Felice, the broad canal in which is the island where the Church of S. Felice stands, a church founded in the tenth century, rebuilt in the middle of the sixteenth. Keeping straight on across another canal, we have before us on our right the Palazzo Giovanelli, a very noble building, now including three old Palaces—Palazzi Priuli, Urbino, and Gemiani. The principal of these was the Palazzo Urbino, built originally in the thirteenth century by Filippo Calendario. In 1538 the Republic gave it to Francesco Maria, Duke of Urbino, whom they had employed with his troops in their wars with the Pope and Milan. He proved a successful general, and among the other gifts and honours rendered him by a grateful Republic was this Palace. It seems that he was escorted from Padua to the Rialto by sixty young men sent by the Republic to meet him. Arrived, he was welcomed by the Doge, the foreign ambassadors, and the people, and was led on board the Bucentauro, a rare honour. ‘Thus, amid a flotilla of state galleys and gondolas crowded with a lively population in gala attire, they conducted their princely guest along the Grand Canal, its palaces glittering with brocades and arrases, its windows radiant with women… So they gave him the palace which in 1548 was the scene of his son’s, Guidobaldo II, marriage to Vittoria Farnese, the Pope’s niece. In 1560 Jacopo Sansovino restored the Palace, which, however, did not remain in the hands of the Urbino Dukes, but passed to the Dons, family by purchase ; they in the seventeenth century passed it on to the Giovanelli, who still hold it and its treasures. Undoubtedly the greatest of these is the picture by Giorgione, which has passed under various names the Family of Giorgione, or simply the Gipsy and the Soldier—and which in itself sums up all that we mean by the Giorgionesque in painting. There we see, in a delicious landscape of green and shady valley, of stream and ruin and towered country town, a woman nude but for a cape about her shoulders giving her breast to her child in the shadow of the trees by a quiet stream. On the other side of this jewelled brook a young man like a soldier or is it a shepherd ?—stands resting on a great lance or crook and seems to converse with her. Close by are the ruins of some classical building overgrown by moss and lichen, and half hidden in the trees, and not far off up the stream in the sunset we see the towers and walls and roofs and domes of a little town with its bridge across the stream leading to the great old fortified gate of the place. But what chiefly attracts us in the work is something new we find there, an air of golden reality, something dreamlike too, though wholly of this our world, an air of music which seems to come to us from the noise of the brook or the summer wind in the trees or the evening bells that from far off we seem to hear ring Ave Maria. One of the golden moments of life has been caught here for ever and perfectly expressed. Heaven, it seems, the kingdom of Heaven, is really to be found in our midst, and Giorgione has contrived a miracle the direct opposite of that of Angelico ; for he found all the flowers of Tuscany and the byways of the world in far-off Paradise, but Giorgione has found Paradise itself here in our world. And we must remember that such a work as this was the true invention of Giorgione. Before him there was nothing but Church pictures. It is to him we owe these pieces which have nothing directly to do with religion, but were painted to light up the rooms we live in, to bring the sun, if you will, into a cabinet, and all the sunset and the quiet out-of-doors into a rich man’s study. Here, in truth, we have ” humanism ” in its essence, and for once perfectly understood and expressed. For humanism does not consist in learning, or indeed in anything but itself : in the wellbeing of man and his brotherhood with nature and with his fellows, in the beauty and quietness and long established order of the world he has made, in his pleasure, most truly religious, in such an hour or in such a work as this. This vision of Giorgione’s, this view of culture and of life, in some sort came to leaven all the work of the young Titian and the young Tintoretto, the great painters not only of Venice but of Europe in the sixteenth century. It is true that they forsook this perfection for something more real, more passionate, more disastrous, and that they came to cling closer to mere life in their work than Giorgione, who died at the age of twenty-six, had been able or was prepared to do. Yet when we are weary of the tragic and confused work in the Scuola di S. Rocco, when Titian’s Assumption seems at last almost insincere in its extraordinary achievement, we return with ever new enthusiasm and pleasure to the work that they have achieved in Giorgione’s spirit and with something of his vision in the Concert of the Pitti, for instance, or the Madonna with S. Bridget and S. Ulphus of Madrid, in the Bacchus and Ariadne of the Ducal Palace or the Mercury with the Graces in the same Hall, where, if we find something harder and more brilliant, we shall discern, too, still that spirit of music, that air of wellbeing, quietness and delight which, in its perfect essence, we find alone, I think, in the work of Giorgione himself, and especially in this masterpiece belonging to Prince Giovanelli.

Just behind the Palazzo Giovanelli stands the Church of S. Fosca, a fine building of the sixteenth century. We pass out of the Campo di S. Fosca by a bridge on the right, and keeping straight on cross another bridge which brings us into the Campo di Marciliano or S. Marziale. The church here was built in the fourteenth century and restored in the seventeenth and eighteenth. It was far more famous of old than it is today, for in memory of the great victories gained on the day of S. Marziale the Doge used to visit the church in state on 1 July. It still holds a miracle picture of the Madonna which came of itself by sea to Venice from Rimini; but its great treasure is the picture of Tobias and the Angel by Titian. Vasari says that Titian painted this work in 1507, “at the time of the war of the Emperor Maximilian, as he himself tells us.” Crowe and Cavalcaselle, however, contradict Vasari, and attribute this picture to the years 1534-1538. Gronau, again, seems to desire to give it a later birth still, and speaks of the years 1540-1543. He finds points of contact between this work and the Annunciation in the Scuola di S. Rocco. It is a work of some charm, and certainly more delightful than the S. Marziale with SS. Peter and Paul over the second altar to the right, which was the last work of Tintoretto. But if we would see Tintoretto nearly at his best as a religious painter, we must proceed from S. Marziale due north, as directly as we may, to the Madonna dell’ Orto, where several of his works remain.

This church, originally dedicated to S. Cristoforo, with the convent attached to it, was founded by Tiberio da Panma in the fourteenth century. Its dedication was changed by reason of a miracle image of the Madonna and Child, now in the sacristy, that was found in a garden hard by, and removed to the church. The place has passed through many vicissitudes even in our time. What we see is a building of the fifteenth century, but that was not the first church, which is spoken of as being rebuilt even in the fourteenth. In 1855 it was suppressed and turned into a stable, but was reconsecrated in 1869. It contains several works by Tintoretto, whose house was not far away on the Fondamenta dei Mori. Perhaps the loveliest picture here, however, is the S. John Baptist, with SS. Peter, Mark, Jerome, and Paul, by Cima. This is a very characteristic work, full of a quiet love of nature, of flowers, and green leaves. Close by is the seventeenth-century monument of Girolamo Gavazza, and beside the fourth altar is a picture by Francesco Beccaruzzi, a painter who imitated all his great predecessors, of Four Saints and Lorenzo Giustiniani. Over the door of the sacristy Is an interesting fifteenth-century bust of the Blessed Virgin.

In the choir Tintoretto lies under his great Last Judgment and Adoration of the Golden Calf, two of his best religious paintings, two early works which Ruskin has most eloquently praised, and which should be compared with the same painter’s Presentation in the Temple, a dramatic work of the same period in the second chapel here in the north aisle. Over the High Altar is an Annunciation by Palma Giovane.

In the Contarini chapel, in the north aisle, amid the busts of members of that famous family, is a fine work by Tintoretto, the Miracle of S. Agnes, and in the fourth chapel is a Lotto of fine colour, a Pieta.

On leaving the church the strange Campanile and the fine Gothic façade with its Annunciation and a statue of S. Christopher by Bartolommeo Buon the elder should be noted.

We now make our way southwest through the ghettos, past the Tempio Israelitico. The Ghetto Vecchio was probably the first set up in Italy, but the second in the world, for the Jews made the first themselves when they enclosed a great part of Jerusalem and refused strangers admittance. The Ghetto Vecchio, however, only dates from the sixteenth century. Before that time the Jews, who were first admitted to Venice in 1372, lived probably in the Giudecca. This part of Venice is still a huddle of houses, and in its own way extremely picturesque.

Thence we proceed due west, along the Cannaregio, which at last we leave, to S. Giobbe, a plague church and convent, built in the middle of the fifteenth century by Doge Cristoforo Moro, the friend of S. Bernardino. The church was restored in 1859, and still contains several interesting and beautiful things, carvings by Pietro Lombardo, reliefs by the Robbia of Florence, the tomb in the choir of Doge Cristoforo Moro and his portrait in the sacristy, where, too, is a fifteenth-century bust of S. Bernardino.

S. Giobbe is a plague church dedicated to the Patriarch Job, who, as we know, was plagued with all manner of diseases, and therefore is invoked against them. For is it not written, “Go to My servant Job and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering ; and My servant Job will pray for you : for him will I accept”? It is a Franciscan church, situated, as so many of the churches of this Order were, in the poorest and most wretched part of the city ; here in Venice close to the ghetto, as in London next to the shambles. Of old over its High Altar stood the famous Giovanni Bellini, now, alas ! in the Accademia (No. 38), of the Madonna enthroned with her Son between S. Job, S. John Baptist, S. Sebastian, S. Francis, and S. Louis of Toulouse.

From S. Giobbe we go south to the railway station, and thence along the Grand Canal to the Scalzi Church, built for the Carmelites in 1656 by Baldassare Longhena, a fine specimen of baroque architecture. On the ceiling is one of those surprisingly light and delicious paintings by Tiepolo, the Miracle of the S. Croce of Loretto.

We follow the wide stneet past the front of the Scalzi till we come to the Campo di S. Geremia, an eighteenth-century building. The Campo here was the place of bullfights. Just beyond it stands the Palazzo Labia in the Cannaregio, with some fine frescoes by Tiepolo of the story of Antony and Cleopatra in the great hall on the first floor. Here we again cross the Cannaregio. It will be noticed that the name of this canale is spelt with a double ” n.” It has nothing to do with canale, but is probably derived from the number of reeds, canna, which of old half filled the way. The bridge here dates from 1255, when it was wood, the first stone bridge being of 1580. The present structure is of the eighteenth century.

After crossing the Cannaregio we turn left to S. Marcuola, on the Grand Canal. It is a church of early foundation, rebuilt for the last time in the eighteenth century. It contains an early work by Titian of about the year 1508, the Child Jesus with S. Catherine and S. Andrew, a strange work that should be compared with Titian’s Salome in the Doria Gallery in Rome.

In the Campo di S. Marcuola we find a traghetto. Here, then, we may cross to the Museo steamer station, and proceed thence to the Piazza di S. Marco, or set out thence at once to explore the Sestiere di S. Croce.