The Cappella del Sacro Chiodo (Chapel of the Holy Nail), in the church of San Pantalon, once housed what was believed to be one of the nails that was used at Christ's Crucifixion.
How the nail ended up in the church is a rather curious tale. In 1270, according to legend, a small chest was left with the nuns of the convent of Santa Chiara by the French king Louis IX, who had come to Venice to promote a new crusade. The nuns were entreated to keep the chest safe and only to hand it over to a person in possession of a ring identical to the one he gave them.
Centuries passed and, as no one had come to collect the chest, the nuns decided to open it. Inside they found the nail, along with some other relics, and a note explaining how the king had come into possession of it.
In 1810 the convent of Santa Chiara was suppressed and the Mother Superior went to live in the parish of San Pantalon. After consulting with her fellow nuns she entrusted the relic to the church of San Pantalon and it was placed in the present chapel on Good Friday, 1836.
Nowadays, the reliquary is empty; the nail, we are told, has been stolen!
The chapel now houses the beautiful painting of the Coronation of the Virgin (1444), which once adorned the high altar of San Pantalon. The altarpiece is the work of Antonio Vivarini and his brother-in-law, Giovanni d' Alemagna.
Blogging about Venice:
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &
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