Barbaria de le Tole, Castello 6691

Complesso dell’Ospedaletto

One complex to discover 4 amazing places of Venice: Church of Santa Maria dei Derelitti, Sardi’s Staircare, Courtyard of the Four Seasons and Sala della Musica.

The Derelitti complex, known as Ospedaletto, was built on the area originally occupied by a hastily built shelter that offered assistance to those suffering the consequences of the deadly famine that struck the Veneto countryside in the winter of 1527–1528.

The Ospedale dei Derelitti soon gave itself a more stable seat that, besides assisting the sick, could also help the poor, the disabled, the pilgrims, and especially the orphans, in keeping with the mixed-welfare policy the Republic of Venice adopted throughout the centuries.

Solid stone buildings gradually replaced the early wooden shacks and the works for the erection of the church – a project that saw the contribution of Andrea Palladio – began in 1575.

During the last decades of the sixteenth century, the substantial bequest of haberdasher Bartolomeo Cargnoni allowed new decoration works to be carried out on the complex. Baldassare Longhena’s extravagant Baroque façade, the renovation of the high altar by Antonio and Giuseppe Sardi, the enlargement of the choir with the creation of a balcony opening in the upper part of the high altar all date to this period.

Church of Santa Maria dei Derelitti

From that time up to the early twenty-first century, donations from generous benefactors provided the Ospedale dei Derelitti with funds for its many additions and modifications, furnishing the church with lavish decorations, altars, statues, paintings, and frescoes by famous artists such as Gian Battista Tiepolo, Johann Carl Loth, Pietro Liberi, Antonio Molinari, Andrea Celesti, sculptor Tommaso Ruer, and painter Giuseppe Cherubini who in 1905 decorated the church ceiling with a style blending eighteenth-century tradition and belle-époque taste.

The Ospedaletto church was also famous for its choir of orphan girls (putte di coro) who received their musical education from distinguished teachers.

The Ospedaletto was renown for its school of music and for the concerts held in the church that lured audiences from all over Europe. “Thanks to the constant quest for better sound quality over the centuries, the interior of the church came to acquire the exemplary acoustics that still inspire and delight listeners to this day” (Deborah Howard, 2009).

The Ospedaletto church was also famous for its choir of orphan girls (putte di coro) who received their musical education from distinguished teachers.

Sardi’s Staircase and the Courtyard of the Four Seasons

In the second half of the seventeenth century, architect Baldassare Longhena succeeded in becoming proto of the Ospedaletto, taking the position that was formerly held by Giuseppe Sardi, the architect who for many years had conducted the complex restoration of the Ospedale buildings culminating in the masterful elliptic staircase (1664–1666) located in the institute’s new wing.

Relations between Sardi and the Ospedale however soon deteriorated leading to a state of incommunicability. These were the circumstances that induced the governors to rescind Sardi’s contract and replace him with Longhena, who was entrusted with the design of the Courtyard of the Four Seasons (1667), a solution intended to provide the putte’s lodgings with a view onto an open space.

The Music Hall

One century later, the Ospedaletto’s musical activities benefitted from the addition of a new space: besides its church, the institution in fact gave itself a Music Hall with an excellent acoustic to be used on official occasions, such as visits of illustrious Venetian or foreign personalities who in this location could be suitably entertained. Built between 1776–1777 in the area occupied by the outer wings of the Ospedale beyond the putte’s Four Seasons courtyard, the hall was located on the first floor where the kitchens had once been. Decorated with great elegance and sobriety, this small room is characterised by an elliptic plan, a casket-shape volume rounded at the corners, faux doors, and a discreet off-centre entrance – all solutions adopted to surprise the viewer and create the optical illusion of a larger space.

The frescoes are by Jacopo Guarana and Agostino Mengozzi Colonna, the two last representatives of a pictorial tradition that with Giovan Battista Tiepolo had reached its highpoint in the eighteenth century.

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