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Madonna dell’Orto

This lovely Gothic church is frequently referred to as the English Church of Venice, for it was British funds that helped restore the building after the 1966 floods. The original church, founded in the mid-14th century, was dedicated to St Christopher, Patron Saint of travellers, to protect the boatmen who ferried passengers to the islands in the Northern lagoon.

Madonna dell'Orto, VeniceThe dedication was changed, and the church reconstructed, in the early 15th century, following the discovery in a nearby vegetable garden of a statue of the Virgin Mary said to have miraculous powers. However, a newly-restored 15th century statue of St. Christopher still stands above the portal.

The interior, façade almost entirely in brick, is large, light and uncluttered. The greatest treasures are the works by Tintoretto, who was a parishioner of the church, Bellini, Vivarini and Cima da Conegliano. Tintoretto’s family tomb, which is marked with a plaque, lies in the chapel to the right of the chancel. The most dramatic of his works are the towering (about fifty feet high) paintings in the chancel,“The Worship of the Golden Calf” and “The Last Judgment”, which are said to have been gifted to the church by the painter, who only accepted a payment for the cost of materials.

John Ruskin, a Great Venetian lover and interpreter from the 19th Century uses these words to describe The Last Judgment:
“...the river of the wrath of God, roaring down into the gulf where the world has melted with its fervent heat, choked with the ruin of nations, and the limbs of its corpses tossed out of its whirling, like water-wheels. Bat-like, out of the holes and caverns and shadows of the earth, the bones gather, and the clay heaps heave, rattling and adhering into half-kneaded anatomies, that crawl, and startle, and struggle up among the putrid weeds, with clay clinging to their clotted hair, and their heavy eyes sealed by the earth-darkness."

This church indeed offers what is probably the finest selection of Venetian paintings.
Beside the church is the newly restored cloister of the School of The Merchant, another Venetian Craft and Devotion Institution.
A hundred meters away, in the Fondamenta dei Mori, is the house of Tintoretto, with his Craft’s emblems carved on the façade.

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