"Isola di San Pietro" Top 5 Page for this destination Venice Off The Beaten Path Tip by suvanki

Venice Off The Beaten Path: 717 reviews and 1,246 photos

  San Pietro di Castello Venice
by suvanki


This 'island' was originally called Castello, after an ancient castle that was built here, either by Romans or the first settlers. There is no sign of the castle, but it is remembered in the name of this sestiere -

Approached from Via Garibaldi, passing the boatyards, and well away from the crowds in Plazza San Marco, it is hard to believe that this was once the religious focus of Venice. The island is linked to Venice by 2 bridges.

In 775, this settlement had grown considerably, and the Patriarch of Grado authorised the granting of a bishopric. Castello later joined with its neighbouring islands to form Rivoalto, from where the city of Venice would grow.

- The church of San Pietro di Castello was the episcopal See from the 9th century.
From 1451 it was the Citys' Cathedral, until under instruction of Napoleon in 1807, San Marco took over.

The Festival of The Marys
At the beginning of the 9th century, the twelve most beautiful maidens were chosen to represent the whole city and gathered together with their fiancees in this Cathedral to receive a collective nuptial blessing.
In 946, a multiple marriage being held in the church was disrupted by a gang of Dalmation (Slav) pirates, who carried off the brides (and their dowries!) The men from the parish of Santa Maria Formosa led the chase, and the kidnappers were finally overcome in the sea off nearby Caorle.
The brides were brought safely back to Castello.
Doge Pietro Candiani III declared that this event should be a cause for celebration - Each year 2 girls were chosen from each sestiere to be married in one ceremony in the Cathedral of San Pietra, followed by 8days (and nights) of communal celebration. The last day being a celebration at Santa Maria Formosa on the Day of the Purification of Mary, which was the day of the kidnapping.
The Festival of The Marys is still celebrated today in Venice. One girl aged between 18 - 30 is chosen by each sestiere. On the first day of Carnivale, they take part in a procession from San Pietro to Piazza San Marco. Colourful medieval costumes are worn by those in the procession, who represent the different European countries

Next to the church, there is a stone camponile which is probably the most precarious in Venice- its easy to see its tilt!It was the first tower in Venice to be clad in Istrian stone, and is now the only remaining stone clad tower in the city. It was rebuilt by Mauro Codussi in the 1480's.
Nearby is the Bishops Palace ,which was used as Army Barracks during Napoleons occupation.

When I visited, (midweek, mid afternoon) it had quite a sleepy atmosphere, a few marquees and stages were being set up, watched by elderly Venetians chatting on the nearby benches.
A few fishing nets were strewn around the canal banks. It had a pleasant 'backwater' feel
It is a residential area, with boat repairs, being the main occupation.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Apr 26, 2009
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