Only the winged Saint Mark’s lion represents the Serenissima Republic and is thus all around the city, right?

That’s actually not completely right. Venice was also represented as a young woman in her childbearing years. (Yes, this is a very important detail and I will tell you why.)

Have a look with me at the sculptural group of Giusto Le Court* that you can find in the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.

Source: Wikimedia – Giusto Le Court

In the centre you can see a woman with a baby boy . An angel supports him. This woman is the Holy Virgin Mary, a symbol for fertility (!). In front of Mary on her left, kneels a young woman of childbearing age that looks at Mary, putting her hand close to her heart and imploring her. What could this request be? As Mary is in the prime of life with a Jesus baby boy, this young lady is begging Mary for a child.

Who is this young woman?

Venice herself! Whilst normally the Saint Mark’s lion symbolizes Venice (have a good look, you can spot Saint Mark with his lion on the left), the state decided to represent itself as a woman in this sculpture.

Why did the symbolism change slowly?

On the one hand because of the foundation legend itself that tells how Venice was founded on the 25th March (the Annunciation). Thus we already find the connection between Venice and Mary in this myth.

On the other hand we find the reason in the artwork of Giusto Le Court: Have a look at the woman on the right. It is an old woman who flees in panic. An angel with a torch chases her. This woman is death, the plague from 1630. Don’t forget that this church was founded because of this last plague!

The plague decimated the population by 30%, about 46.000 people died. A demographic and economic disaster for the government as the citizens and their taxes filled the city’s treasure chests.

Giusto Le Court Sculpure and Mesopanditissa altar piece

How to solve this problem?

Before, Venice tried to attract skilled labour from other cities and countries favouring immigration. Like this the number of citizens grew, but also the economy. Now the state bet everything on their women, their fertility and tried to diminish the death toll of newborns.

For this reason Venice trained her midwives, prohibited baptism in cold winter months, … and made the women the symbol of life. Expression of this female triumph and the hope is the Basilica of the Salute and her female decoration on the inside and outside:

  • The sculpture of Giusto le Court
  • The altar piece of the Madonna Mesopanditissa (here since the 21st November 1670)
  • The side altars of the Basilica dedicated to Mary
  • The outside decoration with female (nude) figures
Altar with the Ascension of the Virgin Mary in the Basilica

*in reality Josse de Corte (from Flanders)

  •   Vielen Dank für den wunderbaren Nachmittag-wunderbare versteckte Ecken in San Marco gesehen und reichlich Tipps für die nächsten Male bekommen wie Museen,Bars usw.

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    November 8, 2022
  •   We had a total blast at Beatrices tour. She showed us a lot of hidden corners in Venice and we moved off the beaten track. She was super knowledgable, provided... read more

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  •   Beatrice hat uns Venedig auf wundervolle Weise ein Stück näher gebracht. Auch mein Sohn war sehr interessiert dabei. Absolut empfehlenswert!!

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  •   sehr empfehlenswert !!!

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  •   Toll!

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  •   Ich kann Beatrice herzlich empfehlen. Sie liebt Venedig, hat viel Wissen darüber und kann es bestens vermitteln, darüber hinaus in Ecken ohne Touristen.

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  •   Es war eine sehr schöne Tour und Beatrix konnte wirklich auf jede Frage eine Antwort geben.

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  •   This tour is a "Hidden Gem" for the "Hidden Corners" of Venice. Beatrice is a passionate and learned tour guide that shared so many intriguing stories about life in Venice... read more

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  •   Beatrice hat nicht nur eine sehr schöne Führung (prima Balance aus Sightseeing und Wissensvermittlung) gemacht sondern vorher und nachher viele weitere und sehr hilfreiche Tipps für den Venedigurlaub geliefert (und... read more

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  •   Beatrice hat uns sehr charmant , kenntnisreich und mit viel Liebe abseits der Touristenströme durch ihr Venedig geführt. Es war sehr interessant, kurzweilig und ausgewogen. Hervorragend waren die vielen kleinen... read more

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