“Isola La Grazia”
Media: pastel on card
Size: 17,5 x 17,5 cm
Originally this island was called La Cavanella. Not really an island, it is a length of tidal marsh which was given to the monks of Saint George in the 10th century. It became an island only when the land was later drained. A hostel for pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land was built there in 1264.
Towards 1400 the followers of San Girolamo of Fiesole transformed the hostel into a monastery and built a church. The Church was named Santa Maria delle Grazie after an image of the Madonna (now held in the museum of the Seminario della Salute) considered to hold miraculous properties. The island then became known as La Grazia.
As with many other islands of the lagoon, La Grazia’s history is a series of construction and subsequent abandonment by various religious orders. In 1538 all buildings were destroyed by a fire and immediately rebuilt. In 1668 the island was handed over the Republic, ending any religious activity of the time.
In 1671 Capuchin nuns bought the deserted island and built a church dedicated to Saint Mary of the Angels. This became a prosperous time in the island’s history: an annual feast was held on 27 July with a fete in the square and a procession of decorated boats. The church was decorated with important works by Tintoretto, Veronese, Longi and had the funeral monuments for Cardinals Luigi Pisani and Agostino Valier, and statues by Bernini.
In 1810, during the Napoleonic occupation, the island was totally destroyed and followed the fate of many others by becoming a powder magazine. In 1849 an explosion in the magazine destroyed any remains of a glorious past.
At the beginning of the 20th century the island was turned into a hospital, first for those suffering with tuberculosis, then, when this was transferred to the island of Sacca Sessola, it became a rehabilitation centre for people with motor-neurone diseases and the recovery of those with contagious diseases.
A monument to the island’s secular history remains: a tree known as “Bovolario” whose branches were used to build the cabins found on gondolas.