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October 2009

2 July – 8 October 2009 Goal reached! Thanks to the Pellegrini group, the statue of St. John of Nepomuk on Fondamenta Labia has been rescued with a timely restoration. This figure, which unites two major capitals of culture, Venice and Prague, was saved just before its state of deterioration became so advanced that there was a risk that it would be lost without a trace.

Eighty-five years ago, the historical Pellegrini family of business owners took its first steps from one of the ‘beating hearts’ of the city, Campo San Bortolo. Now their love, sensitivity and spirit of belonging are consolidated in this gesture from which the Venetians, primarily, will benefit. It is a positive sign that testifies to the desire to play an active role in protecting Venice’s artistic heritage, of which above all we Venetians are guardians. In this way the Pellegrini family repositioned their thinking and positioning, drawing on new inspiration to communicate with a more innovative language than their competitors. In this spirit they have taken up the opportunity, transferring it to their daily lives. It has gained increasing momentum, started by a desire, but also doubts, that such a journey could begin and end within the limits posed by a financial investment and by the time for the restoration. Both have been respected! It was an intense experience to see the emotion in the business owner’s eyes as he displayed his company’s brand on the most beautiful and prestigious window in the world, Venice’s Grand Canal. It confirms that this is the right path: to contribute, with a renewed civic sense and through a strengthening of the relationship between public and private sectors; and to assign due value to those wrongly-labelled “minor” works which are just as important as the major ones in making Venice unique.

Brief History

The Bohemian martyr St. John of Nepomuk was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729 and much worshipped in Venice soon afterwards. In 1737 the office was given to the entire territory of the Republic, but not to the city until 20 September 1749, with an eighth then removed from the Patriarch Bragadin (1758-1775). Both priestly worship as imposed by the clergy and popular devotion by the people were encouraged, as ways to protect the city against the dangers of water, a reference to how the Saint met his death. Found in the perpetual calendar of 1791 three years later, with a Senate’s decree on 26 April 1794, St. John was declared a lesser patron of the city and the clergy of Venice. A substantial core of his iconography is found in the Church of St. Jeremiah the prophet, which was rebuilt in 1752. There is a statue by Marchiori (1696-1778) and scenes from his life by the painter Fontebasso (1709-1769). There is also a Marchiori statue outside - the one undergoing restoration - placed where the Grand Canal and Canale di Cannaregio meet, its meaning clearly being one of protection against the water, as is the case also in other Veneto cities (e.g. Padua) and those in the Trent-Tyrolean area (Trent, Bressanone). Another statue of the Saint was once in St. Bartholomew’s Church and later moved to the seminary. There is also an image of him on the façade of the church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, explained in great detail by Tassini. He was one of the most-worshipped saints in the Church of San Polo in the late 1700s.

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