Sestiere Di Dorsoduro

FROM the church and Scuola di S. Rocco we pass acnoss the Rio della Frescada into the Sestiere di Dorsoduro which roughly comprises that part of Venice which lies between the Fondamenta delle Zattere on the Canal della Giudecca and the Grand Canal. Going this way, we first come upon the Church of S. Pantaleone in its Campo. This Campo was of old used as a fish market, and it still remains the threshold of that part of Venice which is, or seems to be, entirely devoted to the sea. The church was of very early foundation, but was rebuilt in the eleventh and again, as we now see it, in the end of the seventeenth century. In the second chapel on the right is a mediocre work by Paolo Veronese of S. Pantaleone healing a boy, while to the left of the High Altar is a fine early triptych by Giovanni and Antonio da Murano of the Coronation of the Virgin.

Crossing the bridge at the end of the Campo over the Rio Cà Foscari, we enter the most democratic of all the piazzas of Venice, and, after the Piazza di S. Marco, the largest the Campo di S. Margherita. The church which gave this Campo its name was first built in 836, but in 1810 it was closed, and in 1882 it passed into the hands of the Protestants. There is no more picturesque square in Venice than this on a Saturday evening, when it is quite filled with. people of the poorer classes. Its principal interest for us, however, apart from the beauty and antiquity of several of its palaces, is the church at the far end of it, the Carmine. It was begun in 1298 and finished in 1348, but restored in the sixteenth century, and it holds several pictures of beauty and interest. Over the second altar on the right, for instance, is an Adoration of the Shepherds by Cima da Conegliano, one of the finest things in Venice. In an exquisite landscape, under a steep rock overhung with trees, at dawn Christ is born, and S. Joseph has brought in the shepherds to worship Him. Around stand various saints who are to be among His champions, S. Helena, S. Catherine, and Tobias, with the archangel Raphael. Far away many a little town is still asleep, unmindful of the glad tidings. Over the fourth altar is an early work by Tintoretto, the Circumcision ; while in the left aisle, over the second altar there, Lotto has painted an altarpiece, dated 1529, of S. Niccoiô with three angels, and S. John Baptist and S. Lucy. Between the first and second altars here is a Deposition, a magnificent relief in bronze by Andrea Verrocchio the Florentine. Before leaving, one should visit the cloisters.

Close by the church is the Scuola del Carmine, the house of a guild founded in 1529. Here one may see Tiepolo in all his lightness and beauty and grace, as perhaps nowhere else in Venice, for he painted the ceiling with five panels, with the Madonna and her little Son in the midst. The whole is nearly as lovely as the master’s work in the Palazzo Labia.

From the Carmine we proceed towards the Zattere, to S. Sebastiano, a plague church like S. Giobbe and S. Rocco. This church was built in the sixteenth century and restored in 1867. It is almost entirely decorated by Paolo Veronese, who is here buried. S. Sebastian was of old the greatest of all the plague saints ; and though the present church dates only from the sixteenth century, one dedicated in his honour was very early founded in Venice. The church was a foundation of the Jeronymite Order, whose founder, S. Jerome, figures in the decoration as well as S. Sebastian. Paolo Veronese was employed by this Order when he first came to Venice, and he painted his Supper in the House of Simon, now in the Brera, for the Refectory of this monastery.

But Veronese was not the only painter the Order employed. Over the altar of the first chapel on the right we see a magnificent painting of S. Nicholas by Titian. This picture bears the date 1563, and was painted for Niccolô Crasso, a Venetian lawyer, who had built this chapel.

Over the second altar is a delightful Madonna and Child with S. Anthony of Padua and S. Catherine of Alexandria by Paolo Veronese. The S. Anthony is said to be a portrait of the prior of the monastery. Over the thind altar is a sculptured altarpiece by Tommaso Lombardo, a sixteenth-century work, while over the fourth altar is a fine and moving Crucifixion by Veronese. Beyond the pulpit is a good Renaissance tomb by Sansovino.

The choir and High Altar hold three fine works by Veronese. Over the altar is the Apotheosis of S. Sebastian, to whom the Madonna appears in Heaven, surrounded by S. Mark for Venice, S. Jerome for the Jeronymites, S. John Baptist, and S. Catherine of Alexandria. To the right is his martyrdom, and to the left one of the poorest works Veronese ever painted, the Martyrdom of SS. Marcus and Marcellinus, whom S. Sebastian, in the full armour of a Roman soldier, encourages.

Veronese painted the organ shutters also with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin and the Pool of Bethesda, very appropriate subjects for this church, and carried out in a masterly fashion. In the sacristy is a ceiling picture of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, and in the second chapel of the left aisle a restored Baptism of Christ by the same master. As though this were not enough, Veronese has covered the whole church with magnificent ceiling pictures of the story cf Esther. This great man is buried in the last chapel of the left aisle in a modest tomb, over which a mere bust stands.

From S. Sebastiano we pass to Ognissanti. This is a Cistercian church with a convent founded by some nuns from Torcello in 1472. It was first built of wood, but in the late fifteenth century the present church was built. In 1807 both convent and church were suppressed, but the Capuchin sisters from S. Giuseppe di Castello, which was suppressed at the same time, presently acquired the church, and made a girls’ school of the convent.

A little farther on is the Church of S. Trovaso, an early foundation rebuilt in 1028. The present church was begun in 1584. This church stands in the territory both of the Castellani and the Nicolotti, two very ancient factions into which Venice is still in some sort divided.’ In truth, the Castellani represented the democrats of Tesolo, the Nicolotti the aristocrats of Heraclea. The whole of Venice is divided between them : the Castellan faction can claim the Castello, the district of S. Giovanni in Bragora, the district of S. Gregorio, and the islands; the Nicolotti the district from SS. Giovanni e Paolo to the railway station and back to the Accademia. Here at S. Trovaso the two territories meet. For this cause S. Trovaso has two doors, one towards the Nicolotti and one towards the Castellani. Mr. Brown tells us that “if a Castellan baby is to be baptized, and the god-father chance to be a Nicolotto, he will not leave the church by the same door as his compare, but each goes out by the door belonging to his faction. Matters were carried even further than this; and the faction to which a foreigner should belong on arriving in Venice was determined for him by the colour of that quarter where he first left his boat. Most of those who now visit Venice are Castellani.”

The church contains three Tintorettos a Last Supper, an Adoration of the Magi, and S. Joachim expelled from the Temple.

From S. Trovaso it is but a step to the Gesuati; and that is a good way which takes you along the Fondamenta delle Zattere. This long quay by the side of the Giudecca canal was built in 1519, and gets its name from the wood rafts (zatte) which were moored along this shore. Across the water lies the island of the Giudecca with its great Palladian churches of the Zitelle, the Redentore, and S. Eufemia. It is from the Redentore to the Zattere that the wooden bridge is built on the third Sunday in July for the procession in honour of the Precious Blood.

As for the Gesuati, the sons of Blessed Giovanni Columbini of Siena, they were suppressed by Clement IX in 1688, and the present church and convent which bear their name were built by the Dominicans and dedicated to Madonna del Rosario in the eighteenth century. Tiepolo has painted the ceiling, therefore, with the Institution of the festival of the Rosary and a Vision of Madonna and Apotheosis of S. Dominic. Over the first altar to the right, too, we find a delightful altarpiece by the same master of the Madonna and Child with three Dominican nuns. By the third altar to the left is a Crucifixion by Tintoretto.

From the Gesuati we follow along the Zattere past the Scuola dello S. Spirito, which was founded in the adjoining church in 1492 and is now a tobacco store, to the church and convent dello Spirito Santo. The church was founded by Maria Caroldo, who was the first superior of the convent close by, which she also built.

Here we leave the Zattere and proceed north towards the Grand Canal and S. Maria della Salute.

In S. Maria della Salute we have the typical plague church of the city. It was built in gratitude to the Madonna of Health, who, so the Venetians believed, had freed them from the last and the greatest pestilence, that of 1631, which endured for sixteen months and carried off some 140,000 persons. Venice was particularly open to the plague. The great commercial city of Central Europe, she was always in contact with the East and with the infection. More than once, notably in 1348, and in 1571 when Titian was carried off by the pestilence in his ninety-ninth year, she was hard put to it to carry on her government, so many died within her dominion. That attack in 1571, however, which had seen the building of the Redentore and the institution of a great festival and procession that in some sort still endures, was less terrible in every way—in its duration as in the number of its victims than that of 1631. This last pestilence stopped suddenly in November, 1631, after a vow had been made by the Doge that the Republic would build a church to Madonna della Salute if she would deliver them. The Republic observed its promise. A splendid church was immediately planned, a public competition was arranged, and by its means Longhena, a Venetian, a follower of Palladio, was chosen as architect. Meanwhile a wooden and temporary oratory was built upon a piece of land which the Knights Templar had bestowed on the Republic. A bridge of boats was built across the Grand Canal, and on 28 November the Doge, the Senate, the nobles, and the people went in state and in procession from S. Marco to hear Mass. “The letter of a contemporary,” says Mr. Horatio Brown, ” tells us that the day was cloudlessly fine; and we see this long procession filing across the bridge, the priests in their coloured robes, the silver and gold candle-sticks, the flags of the various companies, the young nobles in their tight hose and slashed doublets, the elders each with a long white taper in his hand… That November procession endures too, as well as that to the Redentore in July, to our own time, and remains one of the greatest, the most popular, and the most picturesque spectacles still to be seen in this city, which has become so sombre, a mute at its own funeral.

And the church which Longhena built, in spite of its period, in spite of its wild ornament, seems more and more as we get to know it better to be one of the finest, most astonishing, and perhaps one of the loveliest buildings which remain in the Venice of today.

It is a great circular, or, rather, octagonal, church under a vast great dome, flanked by a smaller dome over the sanctuary chapel. It is set on a great platform at the top of a broad flight of steps at the very entrance of the Grand Canal. It reigns there like a queen, high above the gilded Fortuna of the Dogana, and seems, I often think, better than any other building whatsoever to sum up the later city of which it is at once the crown and the symbol. It is easy to sneer at so light and so popular a thing ; but who can deny its immense success, not with the vulgar alone, but with us all ? We have seen and suffered Venice without the Campanile ; but who could imagine her without the Salute? If that fell, Venice herself would seem to have suffered some irremediable change. It has stood there only since the seventeenth century, yet it seems as inherent a part of the city as S. Mark’s.

Within the church is a host of that sort of rubbish which accumulates about every shrine amid things as precious as they are lovely. But even this rubbish takes on a sort of life when we remember the reason of the church and what it stands for in the heart of Venice. As for the precious things, though they be few they are rare enough, yet not all are here by right. These Titians, for instance, come from the Spirito Santo, the island in the lagoon, for whose friars, as Vasari relates, the painter made them in 1541; in the first we see the Descent of the Holy Spirit : yet it suffered so much, getting darker and darker, that Titian had to paint it afresh. Then behind the High Altar we see eight medallions by the same master made for the same church of the Spirito Santo, the Evangelists and the Fathers of the Church; while in the sacristy are three ceiling pictures by the same master, made, too, for the Spirito Santo, of the Death of Abel, Abraham’s Sacrifice, and the Death of Goliath. Here, too, is another Titian, the best in the church, but again belonging to the Santo Spirito, of S, Mark enthroned with four saints.

Nor is the Tintoretto in the sacristy, a large and dark picture of the Marriage in Cana of Galilee, really at home here ; it comes from the Refectory of the Crociferi, where it was certainly better seen and probably more in place, for it is without any sense of religion, and better suited to a dining room than to a church, for all its Rembrandtesque beauty which, of course, Ruskin praises eloquently. This leaves us with little but rubbish ; yet there is a good Marco Basaiti in the sacristy, a San Sebastian, a fine plague picture, and a curious work by Girolamo da Treviso of S. Rocco, S. Sebastian, and S. Jerome, which are properly in place here.

Close by S. Maria della Salute, on the left of the church, stands the beautiful church and abbey of S. Gregorio, which n its present form dates from 1392. This is one of the loveliest fragments of old Venice which remain to us.

On the other side of the Salute church is the Seminario Patriarcale. It stands where of old the monastery of the SS. Trinità stood. This was destroyed when the Salute was built, and in 1670 a house was built on the site for the Order which had the new church in its charge. For a few years before 1631 the Seminary had occupied the old monastery of SS. Trinità, but in that year it was transferred to Murano. In 1817, however, it was restored to Venice, returning to the building we now see, a work of Longhena. This now contains a small picture-gallery—Galleria Manfredini together with a collection of sculptures, the merest fragments. Only one picture here need detain us more than a moment. It is the retouched and spoilt but still lovely Apollo and Daphne of Giorgione, which for all its delicious landscape and jewel like quality cannot compare with the Giovanelli picture.

Beyond the Seminario stands the Dogana di Mare, the sea custom-house, which was a building of the fourteenth century, restored in 1525, but is now a work of Giuseppe Benoni made in 1675. The Dogana di Terra, a custom-house for goods arriving overland, is in the Rialto.