The tomb of Sonia Kaliensky in the cemetery of St Michael in VeniceHistorical Curiosities
The tomb of Sonia Kaliensky in the cemetery of St Michael in Venice
Between Venice and Murano there is a small island completely surrounded by a wall, beyond which one can see only tall cypress trees: this is the island of St Michael, and from 1813, it has been the cemetery of Venice.
A visit to St Michele is a journey through the sculptures and society of the lagoon city of the last two centuries. Inside there are also two small enclosures that house the Protestant and the Orthodox burials, a sign of the millennial tolerance of Venice to all other religions.
Within the Orthodox fence there are the graves of the famous composer Igor Stravinsky and the Russian Ballets promoter Sergei Diaghilev. But there is also a monument of great beauty, linked to a sad love story.
We are talking about the tomb of Sonia Kaliensky, a Russian noble who, at barely twenty-two, came to Venice to celebrate the carnival of 1907, while staying in the famous and luxurious Danieli Hotel near St Mark's Square. During the general merriment of a carnival night, Sonia took her own life with an overdose of laudanum because of a crushing love disappointment.
The family decided to bury her in Venice and called the famous sculptor Enrico Butti to create a life size bronze of their daughter. The artist produced a porphyry tomb with the figure of their daughter supported by three hooded characters. Sonia is represented in the moment of death, languidly lying on the bed, with a nightdress in light and just crumpled tissue.
The sculpture is hand-polished because of the amount of touches it has received over a century from the visitors, impressed by the drama of the story and the beauty of the sculpture.
If you wish to visit the island of St Michele to see the beautiful tomb of this young lover, we recommend the water bus: Line 4.1 / 4.2, that passes through Piazzale Roma and the Venice Saint Lucia train station, as it is the only one scheduled to stop on the island of St Michael!
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