S. Pietro — Curiosità Veneziane

Tassini - Curiosità Veneziane - Filippi Editore

S. Pietro (Parrocchia, Campo, Ponte di)

Curiosità Veneziane by Giuseppe Tassini is the go-to book for information on Venetian toponyms, and a treasure trove of curious historical titbits. First published in 1863, it is still being reprinted regularly.

There is no English translation of the book so I will translate selected entries on this site, whenever they’re used as sources for articles.

S. Pietro (Parrocchia, Campo, Ponte di). In this location a small church once stood, founded in 650 by the Sammacali, later called Caotorta, and sacred to the St Sergius and Bacchus. In 774 it was rebuilt much larger under the care, it is said, of St Magnus, and was dedicated to St Peter the Apostle. Completed, it was consecrated in 841 by the hand of Bishop Orso Partecipazio. After various reconstructions and restorations, it was enlarged with two new chapels from 1508 to 1524. Then the patriarch Vincenzo Diedo (elected in 1556) decided to renovate it from the foundations, and had ordered the design from Palladio. However, when he died, the project remained suspended, which was only begun in 1594 by the patriarch Lorenzo Priuli. Under him the architect Francesco Smeraldi, nicknamed Fracà, erected the facade of the church with a small part of the interior. Finally Giovanni Grapiglia, from 1621 onwards, completed the building by order of the patriarch Giovanni Tiepolo. It seems that both Smeraldi and Grapiglia followed the original design of Palladio, however making some small modifications. The church of S. Pietro remained the cathedral until 1807, when this honour passed to the basilica of S. Marco. It always exercised parochial rights, and in 1810 saw its territory increased by a part of the suppressed parish of S. Biagio.

The bell tower of S. Pietro was started in 1463, and finished in 1474. The dome was rebuilt in 1670, but now it lacks the small dome set on fire by lightning on October 17, 1822. Moschini found the rest of a Roman inscription on the base : Ennia P. L. Venerea Sibi Et… The adjoined episcopal and later patriarchal palace was built in the 13th century, but was rebuilt in the 16th under the patriarch Antonio Contarini, and also underwent subsequent restorations. From 1807 it was used by troops from the Navy.

The chronicles recall that in Campo di San Pietro di Castello the Mastelizia family, later Basegio, attacked the doge Giovanni Partecipazio, who had ascended the ducal throne in 829, and shaved his hair and beard, led him, dressed as a monk, to Grado, having Pietro Tradonico elected as his successor.

But the district we are talking about witnessed a far more important event in the following century. It was the custom of the Venetians to bless all their marriages in the church of S. Pietro di Castello on January 31st, the anniversary of the translation of the body of San Marco, or, according to other chronicles, the marriages of only twelve poor maidens, endowed at the expense of the Commonwealth. Celebrating this solemnity under Doge Candiano II, elected in 932, or under Doge Candiano III elected in 942, a horde of pirates, coming from the coasts of Istria, threw themselves on the brides, and, kidnapped them together with their wedding trousseau, gaining the sea with a shift escape. The doge, assisted by the bravest of the Venetians, set about pursuing the kidnappers and, having reached them on the eve, or on the day of the Purification of MV1 in a deserted port of the Caprulan2 waters, recovered, after a bloody battle, the brides, and the valuables. In memory of this splendid success, it was established that that port should be called Porto delle Donzelle,3 and that on the eve and day of the Purification of M.V., the doge with the Signoria should visit the church of S. M. Formosa whose patron is precisely the Purification of the Mother of God. However, solemn festivities were added. Twelve maidens, called the Maries, superbly dressed and adorned with gems, spent all the eight days preceding the Candlemas, in well decorated litters along the canals of the city, accompanied by sounds and songs. Then on February 2nd, they were taken to the Palazzo Ducale, whence with the doge they moved to the cathedral of S. Pietro. After hearing mass there, they went to the basilica of San Marco to receive the blessed candles, and then they went to the church of S. Maria Formosa. For the offer which the doge in that circumstance had to make to the parish priest of S. M. Formosa, and for the gift he received from it, see Bande (Ponte ecc. delle) and Casselleria (Calle di). The feast of the Maries, changed as time passed that, instead of the 12 maidens, 12 wooden figures figured, hence still today it is said as a joke Maria de tola, or de legno, a hard, cold, and insipid woman, ended in 1379, the time of the war of Chioggia, only the visit of the doge on the eve of the Purification to the church of S. M. Formosa was preserved, which visit was transported by decree of January 30th, 1762 M. V.4 on the morning of the Purification itself.

In the same 10th century Stefano Caloprini killed Domenico Morosini in Campo di S. Pietro di Castello. The enmity between these two noble families originated, as the chronicles report, because of women. Stefano Caloprini, after the incident, fled with his family from Venice, but then returned at the intercession of the Empress Adelaide. Then the hatreds were rekindled, and in the year 991 the Morosinis killed three Caloprini, as they were returning by boat from the Doge’s Palace. The weakness shown by Doge Tribuno Memmo in repressing the two parties meant that the Venetians deposed him and forced him to become a monk at San Zaccaria.

Giulio Superchi, archbishop of Caorle, died in the parish of S. Pietro di Castello in 1585.

Translator’s notes

  1. The Virgin Mary (Maria Vergine). ↩︎
  2. Off the coast of Caorle, north of the Venetian Lagoon. ↩︎
  3. Habour of the Maids — modern day Porto Santa Marghrita. ↩︎
  4. M.V. stands for More Veneto, in the Venetian tradition. In Venice the new years started on March 1st, as in Roman times. The date in question is therefore in 1763 for us, but in 1762 for the Venetians. ↩︎

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Original Italian text

S. Pietro (Parrocchia, Campo, Ponte di) in Curiosità Veneziane.