Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria
A small pearl hidden between the Vena canal and the San Domenico canal.
What it is and where it is
It stands in the very center of Chioggia, yet it is not one of its best-known churches, perhaps because it is well hidden in one of the narrow streets between the Vena canal and the San Domenico canal. Indeed, one has to sharpen one's eyes a bit to notice the reflection of its beautiful white facade emerging in the shadows of the narrow street. Before you are in its presence, you have to cross the little surrounding wall, and that is when the big white wheel appears among the gray stones of the churchyard, making it immediately clear who the dedicator of the building is: St. Catherine of Alexandria.
Why it is special
Inside, it is worth taking time to dwell on all the details our eyes can grasp. Particularly sumptuous is the altar of Our Lady of Health, framed by precious marbles that reach to the ceiling of the hall. At its feet, mannequins are dressed in cassock robes that hint at the existence of a small collection of sacred art. Indeed, so it is: in the walnut-lined sacristy (dated 1753) are the earliest exhibits that tell of the prayer life of the nuns who resided here.
Not to be missed
Behind the high altar, high up on the back wall and partially on the side walls, the continuity of the walls is interrupted by elaborate grilles. This is the nuns' choir, a private space from which they could attend Mass and animate it, without being seen. Today it is accessible from a small door to the right of the altar that leads to the stairs and the intimate wooden choir. The experience of looking out at the world from those grates is very special, granting a glimpse of cloistered life. A small corridor runs through the body of the beautiful onion-shaped bell tower from 1661, and leads to discover the last pieces of the small monastic museum.
A bit of history
The church of St. Catherine of Alexandria was built in the early 15th century in the center of Chioggia, on land donated to the nuns in 1384 by a certain Pietro Bon of Alvise. The façade was remodeled in the late sixteenth century, while the interior was revised in the early seventeenth century. It was then consecrated in 1662 with wooden altars, which were replaced with marble altars in the first half of the eighteenth century, according to noble Venetian taste. On March 6, 2013, the Diocese of Chioggia began restoration work, which was completed on November 21, 2015.
A peculiarity: if we look at the facade of the church we notice that in the center of the facade the ancient rose window, has been hidden by the ribs of the "wheel of St. Catherine," which, according to tradition, was used for the torture of St. Catherine of Alexandria in the fourth century.