Not far from Sant’Alvise in Sestiere Cannaregio, Venice (the subject of a previous post on RenaissanceRules), Campo de la Madonna de l’Orto (Madonna of the Orchard) faces the straight-line extension of the same rio but, per typical Venetian nomenclature, with a name evocative of this special place, Rio de la Madonna dell’Orto. Of course the Fondamente Madonna de l’Orto edges its north side on the Isola Madonna de l’Orto. When you think that you have learned to decipher the nomenclature of Venetian names, you will then find a score of situations where no system seems to apply, including uniform spelling of the name of a single place, so enjoy the variety and learn more about Venice from it!
Madonna de l’Orto – Campo, Chiesa, Fondamenta and Rio, can be reached via vaporetto lines 41/42 and 51/52 to the landing on Canale delle Fondamente Nove (of course, in the stretch where there is no fondamente) at — wait for it — the Madonna del’Orto station on the north side of this quiet island. The short stroll south to the Campo traverses a modern apartment block neighborhood, often occupied by more cats than humans.
Walking northward from the Grand Canal via a number of routes, Madonna de l’Orto can be reached from Isole Brazo, Mori or Valverde via a separate bridge from each adjacent neighborhood – except from Sant’Alvise to the west which requires a circuitous route.
You can’t help but find it as the soaring campanile and tall, long church nave dominate the local landscape. You will also find that it is a member of the Chorus Churches Association!
From Rejection to Veneration
The church known as Madonna de l’Orto is actually dedicated to San Cristophoro, patron saint of gondoliers. It was founded in around 1332 and followed within decades by the adjacent monastery run by the Umiliati order. Miracles associated with an unfinished statue of the Madonna in the patron’s garden that had been rejected by another church led to its placement on the main altar, veneration, and henceforth the popular name for this place.
It is also known as “Tintoretto’s Church”, as he donated his efforts to his parish church (he lived across the rio on the south side of Isole Mori) to create the phenomenal “The Last Judgment” and “The Worship of the Golden Calf” along with other paintings by him.
The church exterior has a striking late-Gothic brick design rising from the simple Campo, with statues of the apostles in niches cascading down the gables of the facade.
This church was restored from a state of abandonment and utter ruin through the extraordinary efforts of the Save Venice organization.
The more modest building flanking the Campo on the west was the Scuola dei Mercanti, rebuilt on older foundations by that group in the mid-16th Century when they relocated from near the Frari in Sestiere San Polo.
While in the Campo, be sure to notice the rare (for Venice), herring-bone patterned brick pavement.
Another quiet rio, fondamenta and campo in Venice, but with a very robust church to carry the weight of history and tradition! Madonna de l’Orto is worthy of your attention for its ambiance, architecture, and the extraordinary art of Tintoretto, a great example of…
Local boy makes good!