History

Casa Contarini dates back to the 18th century, around 1710. It was built in the Campo (place), just in front of the church – 1460 / 1464 – a rare, perfectly maintained example of gothic architecture. The heart of Cannaregio, into which we are about to step, is still a somewhat isolated region with its own unmistakable atmosphere. As one moves farther north, towards the Madonna dell’Orto, the canals and fondamente grow wider. There is more space, more light, and yet a sense of diminished prosperity. The rhythms of life are slower and more communal than in the swirl of the city centre. The façade of Madonna dell’Orto has sloping sides and is in brickwork, divided in three parts. The portal is surmounted by a pointed arch with white stone decorations portraying, on the summit, St. Christopher, the Madonna and the Archangel Gabriel by Nicolò di Giovanni Fiorentino and Antonio Rizzo. Under is a tympanum, in porphyry, supported by circular pilaster strips. The whole is included into a porch with Corinthian columns.

The upper central section is decorated by small arches and bas-reliefs with geometrical motifs. The upper sides have instead twelve niches each, containing statues of the Apostles. Five other Gothic niches are in the central section, with 18th century statues representing Prudence, Charity, Faith, Hope and Temperance, taken from the demolished church of Santo Stefano. The paintings are by Tintoretto, who lived and worked just a few blocks away on the Fondamenta dei Mori.  Other notable features of the church include Tintoretto’s tomb and a statue of a “Madonna dell’Orto in the chapel of San Mauro, which was discovered in a neighboring garden in the late 1300s and was said to possess miraculous powers. The statue served as an excuse to renovate the church, which originally was dedicated to St. Christopher and has been used as a gunpowder magazine, a barn for storing straw, and a stable at various times in its nearly 650 years of existence.

 

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