One of the larger and more urbane campi in Venice, AND large enough to possess two pozzi, Campo Santa Maria Formosa presents a dignified environment to the visitor fresh from Piazza San Marco or the Rialto.
The white church of Santa Maria Formosa glistens in the sun, embraced by the campo while artfully oriented at a angle within it
– or is the campo artfully angled to accentuate the church –
and defines the neighborhood as it commands the adjacent, ambitiously named Rio del Mondo Novo…
The River of the New World.
The imposing white church is at least the third to preside over this site. Originally founded at the direction of St. Magnus in around 640AD in response to a vision he had on this spot, it was the first Venetian church named for Mary the Mother of Christ. The current “replacement” edifice is architect Mauro Coducci’s 1492 design precisely upon the Greek cross footprint of its predecessor. Several facades were completed by others after his death, and the current campanile was built in the 1680′s.
Attracting few visitors, although one of the “Chorus Churches”, this was the first Venetian church named after Mary the Mother of Christ. It holds forth with the restrained dignity of a proper lady between the campo and the community’s primary rio, not rigidly corseted about by other structures like many other churches in dense Venice.
While visiting the church one morning, we were blessed with a “private concert” by an excellent organist practicing in the loft. His fine work encouraged us to linger quite a while and study the fine, restrained architecture and art within Santa Maria Formosa.
In a modestly designed palazzo tucked into the urban landscape south of the church across Rio di Santa Maria Formosa, the Fondazione Querini Stampalia beckons you to enter its outstanding interior and enjoy worthwhile exhibitions in a setting intriguingly modernized by the late 20th-Century work of architect Carlo Scarpa (How unusual to write “late 20th-Century”, particularly in Venice!).
The campo hosts a fine market during the week, and several cafes encroach boldly into the open space on sunny days. Surrounded by a variety of palazzi in a robust range of architectural styles, and a few now converted into hotels, Santa Maria Formosa is roughly equidistant from Piazza San Marco, Ponte Rialto and Santi Giovanni e Paolo.
A journey to or from this fine campo from any direction brings you through an “other” Venice, with an ambiance and sense of place obscured by the architectural monumentalism of Piazza San Marco and the writhing sea of humanity there or at the Rialto.
There is no writhing mass of humanity here, only the welcome of an ancient community and the quiet elegance of…