The Madonna dell'Orto

Saint Christopher, the church of Madonna dell'Orto, Venice
The beautiful statue above the entrance to the Madonna dell'Orto reminds us that the church is actually dedicated to Saint Christopher. 

It only came to be called the Madonna dell'Orto when, in 1377, a 'miracle-working' statue of the Virgin and Child was moved from a nearby vegetable garden (orto) and placed inside the church. The story which is commonly peddled is that the statue was 'found' in the garden, but this is not exactly true. 
Statue of Virgin and Child, Madonna dell'Orto, Venice
The statue was actually commissioned by the prior of Santa Maria Formosa from a little-known stonemason by the name of Giovanni de Santi. Unfortunately, the sculpture failed to give satisfaction and the prior refused to pay for it. It was then abandoned in the stonemason's garden where one night Giovanni's wife noticed shafts of light emanating from the Virgin's head. The statue soon became an object of intense veneration. At this point the Bishop intervened and ordered Giovanni to move the sculpture indoors or to sell it. The monastic church of San Cristoforo was situated close to where Giovanni lived and the wily stonemason struck a lucrative bargain with the Humiliati, the order of monks which ran it. On June 18th, 1377, the statue of the Virgin and Child was duly placed inside the church and San Cristoforo came to be known as the Madonna dell'Orto.

The statue of Saint Christopher (complete with his glorious quiff) was once attributed to Bartolomeo Bon, but is now thought to come from the studio of Niccolò  di Giovanni Fiorentino (1418-1506). It is only one of the many statues, which adorn both the façade and the campanile.
The church of Madonna dell'Orto, Venice
The apostles in the niches are attributed to the Dalle Masegne brothers, while the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, which flank the entrance, are thought to be early works of Antonio Rizzo. 
Campanile, the church of Madonna dell'Orto, Venice
The onion-shaped cupola (1503) of the church's campanile is crowned with an image of Christ the Redeemer, artist unknown.  


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