According to legend, a first structure on this site was built in 639 by San Magno of Oderzo, to whom the Virgin appeared, asking him to build a church dedicated to her. However, the oldest written documentation about the church dates back to 1060.
The ancient church was renovated in 864 and, after it was damaged by a fire, again in 1106.
After a long period of neglect, in 1492, the church was rebuilt in Renaissance style by Mauro Codussi. The architect died in 1504, without finishing his work.
Later, starting with 1542, the Cappello family financed the construction of both facades. The first, overlooking Rio del Mondo Novo, is in Classical style, while the second, facing the square, is in Baroque style.
During the 17th century, following the damage caused by an earthquake, the Piedmontese merchant Turin Tonon financed a restoration of the church. In addition to the reinforcement of the facades, the restoration included works on the dome and the decoration of the ceilings of the transepts and of the nave.
The Baroque bell tower, started and designed by the priest Francesco Zucconi in 1611, was completed only in 1688.
During the First World War, on the night of August 9, 1916, the church was hit by an Austrian bombing. The presbytery, the right transept and the nave were badly damaged.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The facade overlooking the canal was commissioned by the Cappello family to honor Admiral Vincenzo Cappello, who died in 1541. It is divided into three parts by Corinthian half-pillars placed in pairs on high bases, with a high entablature above and a large tympanum crowned by stone vases.
The Ionic columns of the portal support the funeral monument of the admiral, presented standing above an elaborate urn, a work signed by the sculptor Domenico di Pietro Grazioli. The Cappello coat of arms is displayed in the center of the tympanum.
The north facade overlooking the square, built in 1604, has two orders. The first one is divided in five parts by Ionic pilasters that enclose blind arches on the sides. The second order is connected to the first by the two Corinthian pillars on the sides of the portal, on which the tympanum is set. Crowing the facade, there are five statues depicting the Virgin and the four Virtues.
The church has a Latin cross plan with three naves, with the presbytery flanked by two minor chapels on each side, and large chapels on the sides of the minor aisles.
Inside, there are many important artworks, such as Saint Barbara polyptych by Palma the Elder, one of his most celebrated works, a triptych of the Madonna of Misericordia by Bartolomeo Vivarini in the Conception Chapel, the Madonna with Child and Saint Dominic by Giambattista Tiepolo in the Oratory, and the Last Supper by Leandro Bassano in the right transept.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Church of Santa Maria Formosa is located about 2.1 kilometers away from the Santa Lucia railway station. To find the church on foot, use the map below.
The closest vaporetto stop is Rialto, about 550 meters away, on the waterbus Lines 1 and 2.
Find a place to stay