The other morning I was walking through the quiet, and tourist-free, back streets of Castello when I suddenly noticed, at a distance, a rather beautiful Gothic arch attached to one of the walls of the Arsenale. I went to investigate, but, sadly, could get no further than the Ponte San Daniele.
I later discovered, thanks to Mary Laven's fascinating book Virgins of Venice that the arch is all that remains of the once important convent of Santa Maria delle Vergini. Its inscription, SPES E AMOR GRATO CARCERE NOS RETINENT S.M. DELE VERZENE, translates as 'Hope and love keep us in this pleasant prison. Saint Mary of the Virgins.' The plaque is dated May 2nd, 1557.
Santa Maria delle Vergine was simply one of the thirty-three convents in the city of Venice, with a further seventeen scattered about the lagoon. Together, they accommodated over 3,000 nuns.
Blogging about Venice:
its art, history & culture.
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 &