Saturday, 27 November 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
182, San Martino and Santa Barbara, Burano

The Chiesa San Martino Vescovo or the Church of Saint Martin the Bishop in Burano is known for its leaning tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

This is the last day in Ordinary Time this year, and Advent begins tomorrow. Later today (27 November 2021), I am taking part in the rehearsal in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, for tomorrow evening’s Advent Procession or Service of Light.

Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I have been reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Earlier in this prayer diary, I illustrated my morning reflections with images from churches in Venice and on Murano and Burano. While I was in Venice this month, I reflected on the synagogues in the Ghetto in Venice (7-13 November)

As part of my reflections and this prayer diary this week, I am looking at seven more churches I visited in Venice earlier this month. This theme concludes this morning (27 November 2021) with photographs of the Chiesa San Martino Vescovo or the Church of Saint Martin the Bishop on the island of Burano in the Lagoon.

Inside the Chiesa San Martino Vescovo or the Church of Saint Martin the Bishop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Chiesa San Martino Vescovo or the Church of Saint Martino the Bishop is a 16th or 17th century church on Piazza Baldassarre Galuppi, the main square on the small island of Burano in the Venetian Lagoon. It can be seen from a distance in the Lagoon, marked out by its leaning tower.

This is a large church for such a small island. The first church on the site was built in the ninth century, and some time after the year 1000 the parish church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. It has been restored and rebuilt several times, and it took its present appearance between 1500 and 1600.

The restored or rebuilt church was reconsecrated on 29 October 1645 by the Bishop of Torcello, Marco Antonio Martinengo.

Seen from outside, the church seems to have no main entrance. In fact, it is entered at the side through a Renaissance door beside the neighbouring Chapel of Santa Barbara. This entrance consists of a vast atrium, with an 18th century statue of the Madonna attributed to Girolamo Bonazza.

The interior, in Lombard-Baroque style, is in the shape of a Latin cross, with three naves ending in a chapel, divided by neoclassical pillars supporting full-arched arches and ending in Corinthian-style capitals. The floor has typical red and white square tiles.

The central nave, including the chancel and choir, is about 47 meters long and has a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The high altar is adorned with six elegant columns of red marble from France and another four from ancient oriental marble. The altar, built in 1673, has a large Baroque tabernacle with a small bronze statue of the Risen Christ above.

The unsafe central nave was renovated in 1867. The vault of the side naves and the central transept fell in 1874. In May 1913, a fire destroyed the ceiling of the main nave in May 1913, and the organ, built by Callido in 1767, was destroyed too. Callido’s organ was considered among the best organ masterpieces in Venice, and was replaced by an organ built by the Mascioni firm of Cuvio.

The unsafe central nave was renovated in 1867. The vault of the side naves and the central transept fell in 1874. In May 1913, a fire destroyed the ceiling of the main nave in May 1913, and the organ, built by Callido in 1767, was destroyed too. Callido’s organ was considered among the best organ masterpieces in Venice, and was replaced by an organ built by the Mascioni firm of Cuvio.

The works of art in the church include ‘The Crucifixion’ (1725) by Giambattista Tiepolo, showing the Madonna collapsed at the foot of the Cross, grey with grief. This ambitious early work by Tiepolo was strongly influenced by Tintoretto’s ‘Crucifixion’ in the Scuola di San Rocco.

There are statues of Sant’ Albano and San Martino, both by Girolamo Bonazza, and works by Francesco Fontabasso, Giovanni Mansueti and Girolamo da Santacroce.

The icon near the main altar is a 19th century copy of the Russian icon of the Madonna of Kazan, a masterpiece of enamelwork with astonishingly bright, lifelike eyes.

The church is best known for its leaning tower, built on a square shape with Renaissance and neoclassical architectural features. It is 53 meters high and it on a base 6.2 metres wide. But, due to land subsidence, the tower has inclined by 1.83 meters from its axis.

The tower has undergone several restorations over the centuries, especially in the upper part of the belfry. The most notable maintenance works were carried out by Tirali in 1703-1714.

The top of the tower was crowned by an angel until it fell in a storm in 1867 and was replaced with a cross of iron.

The Oratory of Saint Barbara (Oratorio di Santa Barbara) next door contains relics of the saint and an interesting mosaic of her holding the Empire State Building instead of her usual tower.

Saint Barbara is said to have been martyred in Heliopolis or Nicomedia in the year 290. The Emperor Justin II exhumed her body in Nicomedia in 565 and moved her relics to the Church of the Holy Saviour in Constantinople. Her relics were taken from Constantinople to Venice by the Doge of Pietro Orseolo II in 1003.

The Doge’s son, Giovanni Orseolo, was sent by his father to Byzantium to marry a noblewoman, Maria Argiropoli. The wedding was blessed by the Patriarch, and Maria brought Saint Barbara’s body to Venice, where it was placed in the ducal chapel.

The remains were then moved to the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista on Torcello in 1009, at the request of Orso Orseolo, Bishop of Torcello (1008-1012), and Abbess Felicita of San Giovanni Evangelista, a daughter of the Doge.

The relics remained in the Monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista for eight centuries, until it was suppressed by Napoleon I in 1806. They were moved with the remains of San Sisinnio, a bishop, to the Church of San Martino in Burano on 10 March 1811.

They were moved again, on 4 December 1926, to the Oratory of Saint Barbara, Pius XII proclaimed Saint Barbara as the patron saint of Burano. When he was the Patriarch of Venice, Giuseppe Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, counted her among the seven patrons of Venice.

Inside the Chiesa San Martino, facing the west end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Luke 21: 34-36 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

‘The Crucifixion’ (1725) by Tiepolo was strongly influenced by Tintoretto’s ‘Crucifixion’ in the Scuola di San Rocco (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (27 November 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Anglican Communion Gender Justice Network, which promotes gender equality across the Church.

The Oratory of Saint Barbara, beside the Chiesa San Martino (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Yesterday’s reflection

Tomorrow: Saint Stephen the Younger

A modern icon of Saint Barbara in the Oratory of Saint Barbara (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Chiesa San Martino (centre) and the Oratory of Saint Barbara (right) in the Piazza Baldassarre Galuppi, the main square of Burano (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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