Chiesa di Santa Maria Formosa

sights / Religious

Chiesa di Santa Maria Formosa information

Location
Venice , Italy
Address
Campo Santa Maria Formosa 5267
Getting there
Ferry: Rialto, San Zaccaria
Prices
admission €3, or with Chorus Pass free
Opening hours
10am-5pm Mon-Sat
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Originally built from wood and thatched with straw, in 842 Santa Maria Formosa was the first church on the Rialto to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Destroyed by fire in 1106, the church was refashioned by Mauro Codussi in 1492 with new baroque curves that make good on its name – 'Shapely St Mary'. So does Palma il Vecchio’s polyptych of the forceful-looking St Barbara swathed in a billowing red cape atop the Third Altar dedicated to the School of Shipbuilders, of whom she is patron saint.

According to legend, the church's curious name was inspired by a vision of San Magno, Bishop of Oderzo, although another, more likely, version of events claims the name was confused with the address of a comely courtesan, who lived on the square in the 16th century. Certainly, Veronica Franco (1546–91), one of Venice’s most famous courtesans and an accomplished poetess, frequented literary salons at Ca’ Vernier opposite the church, and the stage-set campo was a lively social hub.