Sestiere Cannaregio

This is an excerpt from the book “Venice and the Veneto

Bridges – Photo © James Lawson
Bridges – Photo © James Lawson

Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth o dei Carmelitani Scalzi (Barefoot Carmelites)

This church was built in 1660 from a design by Baldassarre Longhena. The grandiose façade was created by Giuseppe Sardi. After an Austrian bomb exploded on 27 October 1915, the frescoed vault by Tiepolo collapsed. Today, only a few fragments remain in the Galleries of the Accademia di Belle Arti. In 1934 the ceiling was replaced, and it was adorned with a fresco by Ettore Tito. The first chapel of the right-hand nave has a vault frescoed by G.B.Tiepolo.

Built in the 17th century on the initiative of the Barefooted Carmelites on a project by Baldassarre Longhena. A masterly example of baroque art where a work by G. B. Tiepolo is still visible on the vault of the left aisle that had originally also frescoed the ceiling. Now only the sketch remains of Tiepolo’s fresco and a few fragments kept in the Accademia Gallery. The facade, a work by Giuseppe Sardi, is the only one in Venice made of Carrara marble.

Square and Church of San Geremia

The church houses the relics of Saint Lucy. The relics were previously housed in the church of Santa Lucia which has since been demolished.

Palazzo Labia

This palace was built at the end of the seventeenth century by the Labias, a family of rich Catalan merchants. The inside is decorated with frescoes by Tiepolo. It is now headquarters of the Italian State Television. A sumptuous palace commissioned by the wealthy Labia family in the 18th century with a splendid cycle of frescoes by G.B. Tiepolo. The main salon where Tiepolo painted scenes of the life of Cleopatra is particularly interesting: in one of these, a self-portrait by the great painter.

Church of San Giobbe (1450-70)

This church has a Renaissance portal by Pietro Lombardo. Inside it is decorated with the works of Tuscan artists such as Luca della Robbia.

Photo © Silvia Massetti
Photo © Silvia Massetti


The term ‘ghetto’ derives from the foundries that were found in the area in which the metal was ‘gettato’ or smelted. In 1509 it became the part of the city that was reserved for the Jews. They built their ‘schole’ or synagogues here. the first one was the Schola Tedesca (German Synagogue), which was built in 1528. It was followed by the Schola Canton and the Schola Italiana. The Schola Spagnola was rebuilt by Baldassarre Longhena. The German synagogue houses the museum of Jewish art and contains many fine religious exhibits.

The Ghetto was instituted by the Venetian Republic in 1516 as a compulsory place of residence for Jews. The word itself, ghetto, seems to have originated in Venice: the term derives from the contortion of the work geto (‘to throw’ as a synonym for ‘to cast’, referring to the foundries that were located here in early times.

Within the Ghetto stand the Synagogues, also called Scole – distinguished by their cupolas – and the Jewish Museum, which is accessed through Ghetto Nuovo; it is a small but very rich museum with many exemplars of the goldsmith’s and textile arts dating from between the 16th and 19th century, evidence of the Jewish traditions.

The campo or square is also interesting for the height of its buildings that are some of the highest in the city.

Mastelli Palace

A very picturesque area with the near Campo dei Mori and palazzo Mastelli, also known as palazzo del Cammello because of the stone bas-relief on the façade overlooking the canal. The thirteenth century statues at the corners of the building commemorate three Arab merchants brothers known as Mastelli.

Church of the Madonna dell’Orto

Built towards the middle of the fourteenth century and first dedicated to Saint Christopher , it was later dedicated to the Virgin Mary after miraculously finding a statue of the Virgin in a nearby garden. The church is a beautiful example of Venetian Gothic and hosts works by Tintoretto and Cima da Conegliano.

Flanked by the old Scuola dei Mercanti, this monumental church stands on the far northern edge of the Sestiere of Cannaregio in a churchyard that still maintains its original paving of brick laid out in a herring-bone pattern within Istrian stone divisions. Originally built in the 14th century, the structure was heavily modified in the 15th and owes its name to a miraculous statue of the Virgin and Child – now in the San Mauro Chapel – which was found in a nearby garden (orto); in fact, the church is officially dedicated to St. Christopher Martyr.
The magnificent brick facade is one of the most interesting in Venice, tracing as it does the transitions from Romanesque to Gothic and from Gothic to Renaissance. The interior of a single nave with two aisles contains numerous works of great importance; in particular, some masterpieces by Jacopo Robusti (better known as Tintoretto), who lived nearby (n.3399 on Fondamenta dei Mori) and was buried here, in the apsidal chapel on the right.

Amongst his works one should undoubtedly mention the solemn Titian altarpiece of The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (which now hangs over the doorway in the San Mauro Chapel) and the colossal works in the presbytery: The Adoration of the Golden Calf, The Last Judgment and The Virtues (1562-64).

The other noteworthy works in the church include the fine complex of paintings in the Contarini Chapel (fourth chapel in the north aisle), where you can see Cima da Conegliano’s St. John the Baptist and Saints (first altar on the right). The tabernacle in the fine Renaissance chapel dedicated to the Valier family used to contain a small Giovanni Bellini panel painting of The Madonna and Child (1480), which unfortunately has yet to be recovered after its theft in march 1993.

Photo © Silvia Massetti
Photo © Silvia Massetti

Palazzo Vendramin Calergi

A fine example of Renaissance architecture. It was commissioned by the Loredans who inscribed the words ‘Non nobis Domine’ (‘Not for our sake, Lord’), at the base of the façade. This is taken from the first verse of a psalm and was already used by the Knights Templars as a symbol of humility. The palazzo later came into the possession of the Calergi family and through marriage into the possession of the Vendramin, which is why it has a double name. Wagner died there in 1883.

Ca’ d’Oro

It was built by Marino Contarini in 1441, who used the best stonemasons of his time. It is considered the most striking example of Venetian Gothic. It has a façade with polychrome marble molding and certain elements were overlaid with gold, which was why it was called the ca’ d’Oro. The palace at one point became the property of Baron Giorgio Franchetti who donated it to the State in 1916 and is now a museum, with works by Mantegna, paintings of Tuscan school and a beautiful collection of Renaissance bronzes.

An unusually beautiful example of typical 15th century Gothic design, with its fanciful architect motives, wealth of marbles and the splendor of its gold and color, now all disappeared, which drew inspiration from eastern rather than from northern art.

It is probable that, in the original idea, beginning with the traditional type of Venetian palace, the whole building should have been made with a central body flanked by two smaller side pieces, but only the right side was built, through lack of space.

It was constructed between 1421 and 1440, by Marin Contarini, on the site of a previous house, that once belonged to the Zeno family. This explains why some of the Veneto-byzantine style ornaments belong to the 13th century.

The work of this splendid architect creation, crowned with a typical happily planned crenellation, was carried out by the Lombard and Venetian stone-masons, supervised by Matteo Raverti and the Bons.

Today, minus the additions and irreverent transformations of the architect Meduna (middle of the 19th century) and with the little “Saracen” windows of the mezzanine floor, and the top frieze, it has re-aquired all the harmony of its original aspect.

It became the property of the State as the result of a munificent gift on the part of Baron Giorgio Franchetti. Important group of sculptures, bronzes, paintings and Flemish and Dutch art. Works by Tintoretto, Titian, Van Dyck, Alessandro Vittoria.

Photo © Silvia Massetti
Photo © Silvia Massetti

Oratorio dei Crociferi

This is a treasure trove of works by Palma il Giovane depicting the history of the religious order of the Crociferi, which was founded in the thirteenth century and suppressed in the seventeenth century.
An interesting construction adjoining the Church of the Jesuits, the Oratory of the Cross-bearers dating from the 13th century houses a rich cycle of paintings by J. Palma il Giovane depicting some of the vicissitudes of the Order of the Cross-bearers.

Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Built around 1482 from a design by Pietro Lombardo. It is a fine example of Reinassance architecture, decorated with polychrome marble and bas-reliefs of sirens and tritons , which are unusual decorations for a church. It still has the small altar-piece painted by Nicolo’ di Pietro.

A very beautiful church built between 1481 and 1489 on a plan by Pietro Lombardo, Our Lady of Miracles astonishes especially because of its elegant facade clad in various kinds of marble that, it is said, seem to be from what was left over after the building of the Basilica of St Mark.

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