Hidden treasures

The Dressed Madonnas of the Diocesan Museum in Venice

Local Traditions

The Dressed Madonnas of the Diocesan Museum in Venice

Right behind St Mark's Square, there is a small but fascinating museum: the Diocesan Museum of Venice. Located in the ancient Monastery of St. Apollonia, of which it retains the incredible Romanesque cloister - the oldest of Venice - the Diocesan Museum has a large collection of sacred jewellery, as well as a picture gallery consisting of works from churches that have been destroyed or closed to worship.

Recently the so-called 'Dressed Madonnas' have again been shown to the public, i.e. the statues of the Virgin Mary, represented alone or with Child, often adorned with sumptuous clothes and fabrics very common in the Venice lagoon.

These sculptures, rarely made entirely of wood, have a puppet structure, with well-defined exposed parts (face and neck, hands, feet) made of wood, while the rest of the body is made of padded and papier-mâché armour. These statues were often chosen by a working-class clientele, who could not afford the finest materials and also, often used for processions, due to their ease of transport.

Many dressed Madonnas have unfortunately disappeared, following the Napoleonic suppression or because they were considered disrespectful by many Venetian patriarchs in the 1800s and 1900s, who replaced them with marble statues.

Fortunately in the Diocesan Museum of Venice, there are some examples of these Madonnas, such as the sumptuous Lady of the Rosary (second half of the 18th century) of the  St Martino church in Burano, the Madonna of the People (first half of the 18th century, also with additions of the 19th century), originating from St Geremia and the 17th-century Madonna of the Rosary of  Santa Maria Elisabetta in Lido.

If you want to visit this or other fascinating sights of Venice with a private guided tour contact us now! Our guides will accompany you to explore the city, responding to your every curiosity and sharing many interesting anecdotes about the places and monuments encountered along the way.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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