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A Garden in Venice

Garden art & lifestyle

A Venetian Winter Tale from 1341

There are some ancient legends that bear a strange resemblance to the situation of the lagoon today ... here you can read about the Venetian legend of the "Three Saints" that succeeded in saving Venice from terrible floods caused by a winter storm back in the year 1341 ...
A legend involving Ponte della Paglia, connecting the Riva degli Schiavoni area between the Doge's Palace and the Palazzo delle Prigioni (Prison building of the Republic of Venice). 
The famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) can be seen from the Ponte della Paglia bridge
There are many legends giving us hints of the past: just a few of them have made it to the front pages or into travel guides. The terrible winter storm described in this legend was also painted  by Jacopo Palma  il Vecchio (1480 - 1528 approx.), the painting is displayed at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Venice.
Burrasca di Mare (sea storm) by Jacopo Palma, Galleria dell'Accademia, Venezia
Leggende di Venezia, Armando Scandellari, Edizioni Helvetia
In the evening of 15 February 1339 (or 1341, in other sources), a fisherman took refuge from an approaching tempest, hiding under the Ponte della Paglia bridge next to the Doge's Palace. Of course, at that time, this bridge was made of wood and not of Istrian stone as you can see below. But the legend describes the wooden bridge as rather low, and it still is so today ... 
Ponte della Paglia at night
Suddenly with the wind turning into a frightful gale and the waves flooding Riva degli Schiavoni, the fisherman, lying down in his boat under the bridge for protection, was approached by an old man who asked to be taken immediately across the Bacino di San Marco, to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.
San Giorgio Maggiore, on a stormy night
Here, another man came on board, and they asked to go on further into the darkness, to the Lido, where at the Church of San Nicolò another man jumped into the boat. All three of them told the fisherman that in order to save Venice they had to go to the bocca di porto del Lido.
Waters in the lagoon  in front of the Lido, churned up by wind and heavy rain, just before a storm sets in, in winter
The lagoon communicates with the Adriatic sea via three entrances - the mouths of port (bocche di porto). In the northernmost bocca that you can see in the picture above (source: the scene described in the legend takes place. By the way, this is also where MOSE is being installed ...
Bocca di Porto di Pellestrina seen from above: this one is between the islands of Lido and Pellestrina (in the foreground)
Detail of the picture by Jacopo Palma: i tre santi (the three saints) are fighting a strange vessel 
The three men and the fisherman arrived at the Bocca di Porto del Lido amidst huge waves and noticed a strange vessel full of terrible creatures that were churning up waves, threatening to destroy the lagoon and the city of Venice itself. The three old men began to pray, and a lightening suddenly came down from the sky, sinking the enemy vessel. The storm died down, waves were calm again and the stars appeared in a cloudless sky. The three old men asked to be taken back to their respective churches, and it was then that the fishermen recognized they were the three saints protecting Venice: St Mark, St George and St Nicholas
After the storm, the lagoon waters turn calm again ...
The fisherman goes back to his bridge Ponte della Paglia, referring everything he had seen to the Doge (must have been doge Bartolomeo Gradenigo (1339-1342) and showed him a ring that the Doge had lost some time ago in the sea (l'annello del pescatore)
In this picture, the fisherman is returning the ring to the Doge (Presentation of the Ring, source: Wikipedia).  A painting by Paris Bordone (a pupil of Titian, approx. 1500 - 1570). This legend was presents in Venetian minds even 200 years afterwards.
Strangely enough, can't we notice some similarities of this 700-year old legend to today's situation our lagoon and town are in: La salvezza di Venezia, the fate and survival of Venice, will definitely depend on whether the water masses flooding into the lagoon at the bocche di porto can be finally "tamed", meaning that acqua alta high tides push into the lagoon exactly here, ... enhanced by deep-dug shipping lanes, deep enough to let oversized cruise vessels pass ...
Deep-dug lagoon channels and moto ondoso: Boats are also threatening the lagoon ecosystem today ...  here is the picture of a cruise vessel passing near the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore


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