Madonna dell Orto is a genuine marvel of the Venetian Gothic and one of the finest Venice churches. Its name comes from a statue of the Madonna, found in the church’s garden, believed to have magical powers. The mysterious history and valuable works by painters like Tintoretto lure visitors to this lovely church.
Getting to the church
Madonna dell Orto is part of the Cannaregio neighborhood, easily found on the Venice map. It looks out on the beautiful waters of the Venetian Lagoon. Therefore, the easiest way to get to the church is by vaporetto. The closest stop, a few minutes away, is of the same name as the church.
History & architecture
Madonna dell Orto emerged in 1350, commissioned by the Congregation of the Humiliati. Initially, it honored St. Christopher, a patron saint of travelers crossing the lagoon. You can see his statue above the portal. In 1414, the Council of Ten changed the church's name after discovering a Madonna statue in the garden. The Venetians believed that this statue of the Madonna with Jesus in her arms had special powers.
The facade of the church, built between 1460 and 1464, is mainly made of bricks. As in many other Venice churches, here we can spot the regalzier, a masonry finishing technique. The facade has a beautiful portal with a pointed arch and white stone decorations. They depict St. Christopher, the Madonna, and the Archangel Gabriel. These and a large rose window in the center are the work of Bartolomeo Bon. Madonna dell Orto also features a beautiful 56-meter-high bell tower.
Inside the church
The church's treasures are the works of Tintoretto, a parishioner who lived a few meters away. You can find his family tomb, marked by a plaque, in the chapel to the right of the presbytery. Tintoretto painted and donated his magnificent Universal Judgment to the church in 1562. You can also admire his Presentation of Mary at the Temple and The Cult of the Golden Calf. Other great artists who worked on the church are Bellini, Vivarini, and Cima da Conegliano. You can find his 1495 painting of St. John the Baptist and Saints in the church. As you visit Madonna dell Orto, notice the 19th-century organ above the entrance. It is one of the most powerful in Venice.
Things to do in the area
This part of the Cannaregio neighborhood is known for several reasons. If you check the Venice map, you’ll notice it’s close to the Jewish Ghetto. It is where you’ll find the Jewish Museum and the synagogues of Venice. There are also two well-known Venice churches nearby. When visiting Madonna dell Orto, consider exploring Chiesa di Sant’Alvise or Santa Maria Assunta. You can also stroll on Fondamente Nove, one of the world’s prettiest waterfronts. And for something extraordinary, head to Casa del Tintoretto. It stands less than five minutes from Madonna dell Orto.