09 November 2023

Daily prayers in the Kingdom Season
with USPG: (5) 9 November 2023

The 18th century Duomo di Mestre or Chiesa di San Lorenzo, the Church of Saint Lawrence, is the most important church in Mestre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In this time between All Saints’ Day and Advent Sunday, we are in the Kingdom Season in the Calendar of the Church of England, and the week began with the Fourth Sunday before Advent (5 November 2023).

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (9 November) remembers Margery Kempe, Mystic, ca 1440.

Before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

In recent prayer diaries on this blog, my reflections have already looked at a number of Italian cathedrals, including the cathedrals in Amalfi, Florence, Lucca, Noto, Pisa, Ravenna, Saint Peter’s Basilica and Saint John Lateran, Rome, Siena, Sorrento, Syracuse, Taormina, Torcello and Venice.

So, this week, my reflections look at some more Italian cathedrals, basilicas and churches in Bologna, San Marino, Pistoia, San Gimignano, Mestre, Sorrento and Ravello.

Throughout this week, my reflections each morning are following this pattern:

1, A reflection on an Italian cathedral or basilica;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside, the Duomo of Mestre has a Latin cross plan, with a single nave (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Duomo di Mestre or Chiesa di San Lorenzo:

For many tourists visiting Venice, Mestre is merely an affordable place to sleep and leave luggage, a convenient starting point for a day-trip to Venice. There are cheap and frequent connections to Venice by train and by bus, even through the night, and the bars, hotels, restaurants and supermarkets charge more reasonable prices – even car parking is possible.

Mestre seems to live in the shadow of Venice. Some even claim it is everything that Venice is not: modern, ugly, traffic-filled, ordinary. It often goes without appreciation, yet it has its own charm, character and history as a town that few give themselves time to appreciate.

Mestre was always overshadowed by its powerful neighbour Venice. Yet this is the most populated borough of the comune of Venice, and administratively it is part of Venice, serving as a kind of mainland suburb. Indeed, Mestre has a history that dates back to the Middle Ages … if not earlier.

According to legend, Mestre was founded by Mesthles, a companion of Antenor, a fugitive from Troy, who founded Padua. The true origins of the town are uncertain, although it is known that there was a Roman oppidum or fortress there. The settlement was destroyed by Attila and was probably rebuilt in the 10th century.

The 18th century Duomo di Mestre or Chiesa di San Lorenzo, the Church of Saint Lawrence, is the most important church in Mestre and the religious heart of the city, with its neoclassical exterior and its original Romanesque bell tower.

The first church in the heart of Mestre was probably built in the early Middle Ages and was dedicated to Saint Lawrence the Deacon, an early martyr in Rome. When Mestre was taken by the Republic of Venice in 1337, the Church of San Lorenzo was in a serious state of decay. The town council decided to rebuild it, with the approval of the Senate in 1388. The new church was largely completed in 1398, and was finished in 1446. It was consecrated on Saint Michael’s Day, 29 September 1515.

The duomo was cramped and crumbling by 1770, when the council decided to rebuild it. The present church dates from 1781-1805. It was designed by Bernardino Maccaruzzi, who also designed the Church of San Rocco and the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.

The neoclassical façade has statues in niches of the four evangelists by the late 16th-century sculptor Agostino Rubini, a pupil of Vittoria. The statues at the top of San Trifone, Archangel Gabriel, San Lorenzo, Archangel Michael, Santo Stefano are by Giacomo Gabardi of Venice and date back from 1804-1805.

The bronze panels of the main door are the work of Gianni Aricò, whose other works in Mestre include the fountain in the Via Piave nearby.

Inside, the church has a Latin cross plan, with a single nave. The High Altar and the altars in the nave are from the deconsecrated church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The High Altar altarpiece by Pozzoserrato depicts the Madonna and the Christ Child with Angels and Saint Michael, Saint Lawrence and Saint Vincent. It dates from 1593 and is one of the few surviving works of the old church.

The parish was part of the Diocese of Treviso until 1927, but is now part of the Patriarchate of Venice. The duomo was restored completely in 1996.

The bell tower dates from 1515, and has a concert of three bells cast in 1925 by the Cavadini foundry in Verona. An older bell called ‘La Borromea’ was cast in 1580 was donated to the city and blessed by Saint Charles Borromeo when he stayed in Mestre.

To the right side of the church, set back and hidden by an early 20th century building, stands the Scuola dei Battuti, the oldest schola in Mestre. It was founded in 1302 and is housed in a graceful 15th century Gothic building.

The bell tower dates from 1515 and has a concert of three bells cast in 1925 by the Cavadini foundry in Verona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The first historical record of Mestre is in the charter of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, in which Rambald, the Count of Treviso, received land in an area named Mestre. A papal bull by Pope Eugene III in 1152 recognised the Bishop of Treviso as lord of Mestre and mentioned the Church of Saint Lawrence, an old castle (Castelvecchio) and a port.

The Bishop of Treviso granted Mestre to Alberico da Romano, the podestà of Treviso in 1257. A fire destroyed the castle in 1274, and the people of Mestre fortified the town with a palisade that became Castelnuovo, the new castle.

The Scaligeri family from Verona conquered Treviso in 1323 and so acquired Mestre. But the Venetians feared Verona’s power on the mainland and conquered Mestre in 1337. They replaced the old fortification with a brick wall with eight towers and a moat.

Unlike Venice, Mestre had no lagoon to protect it, and its fortifications were fought over, conquered, destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries. Even after the town was taken over by Venice in the 14th century, it was still at the mercy of occasional attacks from Venice’s enemies. But the port of Mestre benefited from the economic power of Venice, forming Vnice’s main connection with the mainland.

The Venetian domination of Mestre ended on 16 July 1797 when Napoleon occupied the Republic of Venice.

Mestre followed the French model, and constituted itself into a free municipality or comune in 1806. It remained so under subsequent Austrian rule and under the Kingdom of Italy after the unification of Italy. Mestre remained a comune until 1926, when it was absorbed into the Comune di Venezia, losing its separate status as a town.

A big port and industrial complex was developed on the shores of the lagoon at Porto Marghera, in the 1920s and 1930s, aiming to boost the local economy. Mestre grew as workers arrived from across Italy seeking somewhere to live and to work.

After World War II, Mestre had a fast and disorganised period of urban growth and became a large urban area, so that post-war Mestre experienced a population boom in the 1960s and 1970s fuelled mainly by the growth of the industrial zone in Marghera.

As Venetians left behind dark flats and the threats of high water and rising damp, there was more rapid growth. Mestre suffered inadequate planning control as ugly housing and industrial developments sprang up, and the population of the town grew.

The population of Mestre today is almost three times that of Venice itself. Mestre offers modern houses and apartments, with space for children to play, and families can use cars and bicycles too. There are normal shops with normal prices, including Mestre’s shopping centre, Centro Le Barche.

Mestre’s most appealing feature is the town’s main square, Piazza Ferretto. Large, long and attractive with a friendly bustle, here there are cafés to while away the morning or the afternoon.

Piazza Ferretto, with its beautifully designed water feature and sculpture at its centre, creates a relaxing atmosphere. There too is the Teatro Toniolo, a beautiful theatre that is considered an important architectural landmark. Teatro Toniolo is a centre for the arts in Mestre, with its symphonies, theatre, dance, and comic performances.

The square is pedestrianised and is surrounded by interesting and historic buildings, including the 18th century Duomo di Mestre or Chiesa di San Lorenzo, the Church of Saint Lawrence.

The restored clock tower, the Torre Civica, or the Torre dell’Orologio, at the end of the piazza is Mestre’s principal monument, and was part of the town’s original mediaeval fortifications, called the Castelnuovo, which is believed to have had more than a dozen medieval towers.

The tower dates from the 13th century and has a clock dating from the 16th century. It is 24 meters high, with its dramatic red-brick exterior accentuated by an impressive crenelated structure.

Mestre and neighbouring Carpenedo form the Municipalità di Mestre-Carpenedo, one of the six boroughs in the comune of Venice. With about 89,000 inhabitants, Mestre is the most populated of these urban centres. In contrast, about 53,000 people live in Venice itself, and about 27,700 live in the other major islands of the lagoon, Murano, Burano, Mazzorbo, Torcello, Lido and Pellestrina.

Recent attempts to regain Mestre’s autonomy in five referenda – 1979, 1989, 1994, 2003 and 2019 – have been rejected.

Many people who work in Venice each day – including many gondoliers – commute each morning from Mestre to Piazzale Roma. Mestre is linked to Venice by Ponte della Libertà, the 3.8 km railway and road bridge that crosses the lagoon. Buses run constantly between Mestre and Venice, crossing the lagoon to Piazzale Roma, Venice’s bus terminus.

The duomo looks out onto a corner of the Piazza Ferretto in Mestre (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 15: 1-10 (NRSVA):

1 Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

3 So he told them this parable: 4 ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.

8 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

‘The Last Supper’, one of the bronze panels of the main door by Gianni Aricò (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Thursday 9 November 2023):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Community Health Programmes’. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (9 November 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

Today we pray for Christians across many churches, denominations, and continents. May we work together to share the love of Jesus Christ with each other and with those who may feel outside of the Church.

The present chduomo in Mestre dates from 1781-1805 and was designed by Bernardino Maccaruzzi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have kindled the flame of love
in the hearts of the saints:
grant to us the same faith and power of love,
that, as we rejoice in their triumphs,
we may be sustained by their example and fellowship;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord of heaven,
in this eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect:
as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The restored clock tower, the Torre Civica, or the Torre dell’Orologio, is Mestre’s principal monument (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

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

Mestre has its own charm, character and history that few visitors ever appreciate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1 comment:

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