A Wanderer in Venice eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 291 pages of information about A Wanderer in Venice.

Among the smaller beauties of Venice—­its cabinet architectural gems, so to speak—­S.  Maria dei Miracoli comes first.  This little church, so small as to be almost a casket, is tucked away among old houses on a canal off the Rio di S. Marina, and it might be visited after SS.  Giovanni e Paolo as a contrast to the vastness of that “Patheon de Venise,” as the sacristan likes to call it.  S. Maria dei Miracoli, so named from a picture of the Madonna over the altar which has performed many miracles, is a monument to the genius of the Lombardo family:  Pietro and his sons having made it, in the fifteenth century, for the Amadi.  To call the little church perfect is a natural impulse, although no doubt fault could be found with it:  Ruskin, for example, finds some, but try as he will to be cross he cannot avoid conveying an impression of pleasure in it.  For you and me, however, it is a joy unalloyed:  a jewel of Byzantine Renaissance architecture, made more beautiful by gay and thoughtful detail.  It is all of marble, white and coloured, with a massive wooden ceiling enriched and lightened by paint.  Venice has nothing else at all like it.  Fancy, in this city of aisles and columns and side chapels and wall tombs, a church with no interruptions or impediments whatever.  The floor has its chairs (such poor cane-bottomed things too, just waiting for a rich patron to put in something good of rare wood, well carved and possibly a little gilded), and nothing else.  The walls are unvexed.  At the end is a flight of steps leading to the altar, and that is all, except that there is not an inch of the church which does not bear traces of a loving care.  Every piece of the marble carving is worth study—­the flowers and foliations, the birds and cupids and dolphins, and not least the saint with a book on the left ambone.

S. Maria Formosa, one of the churches mentioned in the beautiful legend of Bishop Magnus—­to be built, you remember, where he saw a white cloud rest—­which still has a blue door-curtain, is chiefly famous for a picture by a great Venetian painter who is too little represented in the city—­Palma the elder.  Palma loved beautiful, opulent women and rich colours, and even when he painted a saint, as he does here—­S.  Barbara (whose jawbone we saw in the S. Rocco treasury)—­he could not much reduce his fine free fancy and therefore he made her more of a commanding queen than a Christian martyr.  This church used to be visited every year by the Doge for a service in commemoration of the capture of the brides, of which we heard at S. Pietro in Castello.  The campo, once a favourite centre for bull-fights and alfresco plays, has some fine palaces, notably those at No. 5250, the Malipiero, and No. 6125, the red Dona.

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A Wanderer in Venice from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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