Chiesa di San Zaccaria

The first church of S. Zaccaria was built in the 9th century to house the remains of the father of St. John the Baptist, which were donated to the City of Venice by the Byzantine emperor Leo V as a gesture of friendship. The doges Angelo and Giustiniano Partecipazio added a Bendictine monastery, which was rebuilt under the doge Orso Partecipazio, elected in 864, by the Abbess Giovanna who was his daughter. In the year 1105 it was destroyed, together with the church, in a terrible fire in which it is said that more than a hundred nuns suffocated to death, having sought refuge in the crypt which still exists under the main altar. Pope Benedict III was a guest in this convent in the year 855 during his flight from the violence unleashed by the antipope Anastasio; in gratitude to the Benedictine nuns he donated many relics and fixed the custom that on the anniversary of its consecration, the 13th September, the doge and the Signoria should come to visit the church. The monastery took in the daughters of the richest and noblest of the Venetian families: there are many tales about the life that was lived in this place and the young nuns had no lack of feasts and enjoyment. They transformed their parlour into an elegant salon where they held concerts and various shows, with a continual “pilgrimage” of young masked gallants.

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