Laatste update op 18 November 2017

The relic of the Holy Cross was pushed into the water by accident during a procession from the scuola to the Church of San Lorenzo in the end of the 14th century.

The legend says that the relic did not sinc, but stayed afloat: The Miracle of the Holy Cross. Several friars tried to seize the holy object, but in vain. It did not want to be caught by them. It was too heavy to handle, it floating into another direction until at last the leader of the brotherhood, Andrea Vendramin, succeeded into bringing the relic ashore. Het was the one who received the relic in 1369 as leader of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista. In addition he was the grandfather of the coming doge with identical name Andrea Vendramin (doge 1476-1478).

Gentile Bellini realised a painting of these happenings: the ‘Miracolo della Croce caduta nel canale di San Lorenzo’, or the miracle of the cross that fell into the canal of San Lorenzo. Belline used his own timeframe (end 15th century), so the painting is not quite realistic (as is the legend of course) with Caterina Cornaro, and to the right probably Bellini himself with his family.

schilderij met Caterina Cornaro: Gentille Bellini - Miracolo_della_Croce_caduta_nel_canale_di_San_Lorenzo Cornaro

schilderij met Caterina Cornaro: door Gentille Bellini – “Miracolo_della_Croce_caduta_nel_canale_di_San_Lorenzo”

If you want to see the location in Venice in approximately the same perspective as the painter, walk up to the Ponte Lion and look into the direction of Ponte di San Lorenzo. Even after over 500 years you are able to recognise several identifying marks. The bridge itself changed; nowadays it has only one arch. The – enormous sized – painting can be viewed in the Galleria dell’Accademia. If you look closely, you will see a dark African man in the right. This is problably a More (Marocco). The presence of a More in a family meant wealth and luxury. Mores usually served as servant and/or entertainer. In some paintings they are depicted as gondoliere.

Ponte di San Lorenzo

Ponte di San Lorenzo

Something specific about the painting: in general one of the kneeling ladies is said to be Caterina Cornaro. This is inaccurate: the queen can be found to the right in the painting. She is standing, praying, with a rosary in her hands. I recognised her appearence when I viewed the painting in the Accademia. When I returned home I started to search for evidence for my assumption, and this Italian website confirmed my conclusions.

detail met Caterina Cornaro

detail met Caterina Cornaro

When you compare Cornaro in both paintings (the San Lorenzo painting and the portrait), you will find the similarities. What do you think, is Cornare the first or second lady to the left?

Caterina Cornaro, koningin van Cyprus, door Gentile Bellini (kunstwerk te Florence)

Caterina Cornaro, koningin van Cyprus, door Gentile Bellini (kunstwerk te Florence)

More about this legend and the painting can be found at Wikipedia about the Miracle.


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