Hidden treasures

The Pious site of the Penitents in the Cannaregio Canal in Venice

Unknown places & works
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The Pious site of the Penitents in the Cannaregio Canal in Venice

Along the Cannaregio Canal in Venice, opposite the former municipal slaughterhouse (now University Ca 'Foscari), there is a church flanked by two buildings: the pious site of the Penitents.

In 1705 a shelter was here established to receive the repentant sinners, basically a hostel to house prostitutes that had repented and other women who were involved in a public scandal and who then needed help to obtain a honest job. Many nobles made bequests in favour of the pious institution, but it was mainly thanks to the donations of the noblewoman Marina Priuli da Lezze that the actual construction could be carried out, under the direction of the architect Giorgio Massari.

Generally, the penitents were required to be not less than 12 and not more than 30 years of age; be from Venice or to have lived in Venice for at least a year; be healthy in mind and body, not pregnant and to have withdrawn from the sinful life for at least 3 months.

After the fall of the Republic, as a result of the Napoleonic edicts in 1807, guests of 'Ospissio del Socorso, which had been stopped and closed down as a result of the same edicts, were also based at the pious site of the Penitents.

The original purpose of the pious site dwindled down with the decline in the number of guests, and so after 1945 refugee women coming mainly from Istria and the former colonies in Africa were here given shelter.

Currently the entire large complex is being renovated in order to create a nursing centre for Alzheimer's patients.

If you would like to know more about the most curious and unusual buildings of Venice, book a personalized tour of the city with our guide Francesca, the editor of this popular section!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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