Santa Maria Formosa

Venice, Italy

Santa Maria Formosa was erected in 1492 under the design by Renaissance architect Mauro Codussi. It lies on the site of a former church dating from the 7th century, which, according to tradition, was one of the eight founded by San Magno, bishop of Oderzo. The name 'formosa' relates to an alleged appearance of the Holy Virgin disguised as a voluptuous woman.

The plan is on the Latin cross, with a nave and two aisles. The two façades were commissioned in 1542, the Renaissance-style one facing the channel, and 1604, the Baroque one facing the nearby square.

The artworks in the interior include the St. Barbara polyptych by Palma the Elder, one of his most celebrated works. The Conception Chapel houses a triptych of Madonna of Misericordia by Bartolomeo Vivarini (1473), while in the Oratory is the Madonna with Child and St. Dominic by Giambattista Tiepolo (18th century). There is also a Last Supper by Leandro Bassano.

The dome of the church was rebuilt in after falling during an earthquake in 1688.



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Castello 5255, Venice, Italy
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Founded: 1492
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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User Reviews

Hana Neua (12 months ago)
Beautiful church. Is accessible by chorus card. chorus card is recommendable if u like churches plan to visit more than four from chorus card list. U can also visit palazzo grimani and acqua alta bookshop and fond.querini stampalia near here
Cody P (13 months ago)
We only poked our heads inside the church for just a minute, but the outside is certainly a wonder to behold. The church offers wonderful pictures from multiple angles.
József Böröndi (18 months ago)
Nagyon szép templom! The Venetian term “mascaron” indicates stone figures with monstrous and grotesque features, inserted on the keystones of portals, wells or bridges, for ornamental and superstitious use. The ancient function of the “mascarons” with frightening sneers or monstrous features, half human and half beast, carved in the facades of palaces and churches, was to scare away the evil demons or even the devil. In particular, the sacred places were equipped with stone guardians often placed near the bell towers so that they could guard against the evil presences that, attracted by the sound of the bells, would create havoc among the population. One of the most famous mascarons is certainly the one that decorates the entrance portal of the bell tower of Santa Maria Formosa, known as “El Mascaron”. Its purpose was to frighten the devil but surely it succeeded in scaring the English writer John Ruskin, author of the beautiful book “The Stones of Venice”, who described it in this way: “a head – huge, inhuman and monstrous – leering in bestial degradation, too foul to be either pictured or described, or to be beheld for more than an instant…..” “El Mascaron” at first sight is undoubtedly impressive. Observing with care the traits of the monstrosity, in the end the thought runs more towards the terrible malformation that struck this unfortunate person, rather than to a form of wickedness where the external ugliness plays to raise the sense of terror. Isn’t it true that behind such inclemency on the part of “Mother Nature” hid the purity and the soul’s generosity of Quasimodo? Curiosity: even now in Venice, when you see a woman using too much make-up, so much so that she looks like a mask, you say “par un mascaron”.
DK1981 (2 years ago)
Can't find the entrance? Walk around the building and you'll find it. There seems to be no rhyme or reason in Venice as to which doors are open in any particular church. There is a painting of "Virgin Mary with Child and Saint Domenico" painted by Tiepolo. I thought I took a picture, but there were so many treasures to see in the church I must have gotten distracted.
Asiyah Noemi Koso (2 years ago)
The church of Santa Maria Formosa built in 1492, is Mauro Codussi's architectural masterpiece and marks the introduction of the full spatial vision embodied in the Tuscan Renaissance in Venice. The Latin-cross layout, with central nave and two side aisles, respects the foundations of the original 7th-century church which, according to tradition, was one of the eight founded by San Magno, bishop of Oderzo. The name "formosa" ( in latin "beautiful") relates to an alleged appearance of the Holy Virgin disguised as a voluptuous woman. The church is partially maintaining the visibility of the remaking from the 9th-century during which the church enriched with the cupola and a Greek-cross layout. For the external façades, commissioned by the Cappello family, two different styles were chosen, the classical-style façade giving onto the Canal, built in 1542, and the Baroque façade giving onto the small campo in 1604. The interior of the church is beautiful and richly decorated with many magnificent works by famous masters of painting and sculpture. One of the works of art in the church which should not be missed is the "Saint Barbara Polyptych" by Jacopo Palma il Vecchio (1523 ca.), located in the chapel of the Scuola dei Bombardieri, the piece of art that first gave recognization to the artist's name within the city. Opposite it, hangs Leandro Bassano's sombre "Last Supper" (end of the XVI century), whilst in the chapel of the Conception we are find the famous "Triptych of Virgin Mary of Mercy" (1473), which reveals the clear influence of the Mantegna style on Murano artist Bartolomeo Vivarini. While in the Oratory we were delighted with the painting “The Madonna with Child and St. Dominic” by Giambattista Tiepolo (18th century).
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