The first to own the Church of Santa Maria dell’Orto were the members of the Humiliati order. In fact, they were the ones who commissioned the construction of this place of worship which, initially, was dedicated to San Cristoforo Martire. The edifice was built in 1350, and it remained the property of the Humiliati until 1462, when the monks were outcast from Venice because of their allegedly depraved practices. Sundry other orders where alternately designated to manage the church (the Regular Canons of Saint George, the Cistercians of Lombardy), but regardless of the winding history of this place of worship, what matters is the edifice proper has managed to survive in time.

And it did survive, but not without significant impairment of its artistic patrimony. The successive restoration works (in 1399, in the mid 19th century, in 1912, in 1930, as well as between 1970 and 1980) were intended to either strengthen the structure or to give back to the edifice its former shine, which is what they actually did, at least in part. But the theft attempts, the centuries-long administrative abandonment, as well as the floods and the fact the establishment was occasionally used to other purposes than the ones intended by design (as stables, wine store and powder warehouse), all these did damage the artistic wealth of the church.

The bottom line is, however, the remaining masterpieces turn the Church of Santa Maria dell’Orto into a sight worth visiting. We speak here, for instance, of works by Tintoretto (such as the Last Judgment and the Worship of the Golden Calf – these two flank the choir – the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, placed above the San Marco Chapel, and the Raising of Licinius by Saint Agnes, located in the forth chapel on the left), by Giovanni Bellini (one of his works here was repeatedly stolen from the church), and by Cima da Conegliano (a 1493 Saint John the Baptist located on the first altar on the right side). Speaking of Tintoretto, what is worth mentioning is his tomb is located inside the Church of Santa Maria dell’Orto.

The exterior of the edifice is not to be disregarded either. The church is covered with a brick facade built between 1460 and 1464. The facade is dotted with sculptural works, some of them attributed to Jacobello dalle Masegne, and pegged out by mullioned windows (on the two lateral sections), whereas a massive rose window marks the central sector. The superior side of the facade is populated, so to speak, by statues of the apostles, as well as by the allegorical statues of Prudence, Charity, Faith, Hope and Temperance (each one placed in a Gothic niche carved in the upper central section of the facade).

Other exterior highlights refer to the array of Corinthian columns which delineate the porch of the church and to the portal overtopped by sculptural representations of the Virgin, of Saint Christopher and of Archangel Gabriel (realized by Antonio Rizzo and Nicolo di Giovanni Fiorentino). The early 16th century square campanile which ensures the verticality of the church’s backdrop, is, it too, covered in brick, being overtopped by a marble statue of Jesus the Redeemer. Its sides are flanked by statues of apostles, all created by artists raised at the school of Lombardi.

Church of Santa Maria dell’Orto (Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto / Chiesa di San Cristoforo Martire)
Campo Madonna, Cannaregio, Venice, Italy
0039 041 719933
[email protected]
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