Pateras – Small Circular Reliefs. They are found on civic and religious buildings, being products of Byzantine culture and are seen on the sides of both civic and religious buildings throughout Venice.
(Definition: Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term relief is from the Latin verb relevo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. What is actually performed when a relief is cut in from a flat surface of stone (relief sculpture) or wood (relief carving) is a lowering of the field, leaving the un-sculpted parts seemingly raised).
Usually sized between 20 – 80 cm in diameter and 10 cm thickness and are usually made of marble or Istrian stone. They exist in six categories: flat, low/medium relief, high relief, curved, champlevé (an enamelling technique), and drilled. Their shape originates from the way they were made, often sculpted from slices of old marble columns, that had been replaced in past renovations of a building.
Extremely fashionable in the 12th to 14th centuries, the patera was usually used to decorate friezes and walls and to interrupt mouldings. However, in later periods their use declined.
The recurring subjects are fighting animals, birds, foliage and hybrid monsters; but there are also figures symbolizing trades or people. However, the most popular image consists of an eagle eating the head of a rabbit or hare; symbolizing the victory of virtue over vice or good over evil. The patera may have also performed an apotropaic function to keep away evil spirits or bad luck.
The contextual explanation offered by St. Mark’s lower arch, and by other 13th century portals existing in Venice, offer another explanatory interpretation of their use; as possible emblems of traveling merchants, placed on the facades of houses to indicate routes, or geographical areas touched by the families. As patere and other bas-reliefs with the same subjects are widespread from the Mediterranean to Asia; these sculptures placed on the Venetian facades were possibly readable for a multicultural audience.
The presence of old pateras does not mean that the building itself is of the same age, as many have been recycled; since a large number of the oldest buildings were refurbished or destroyed. Few are today in their original location.
They experienced an important revival in the 19th and 20th Centuries, an epoch in which many imitations were produced. Today, around a thousand pateras are found on the outside of Venetian buildings; the number of originals is thought to be under five hundred. This fact has earned them the name of “erratic sculptures”; often making it problematic to define the dating of individual pieces. Chronological considerations are mainly based on material and style.
Formelle: a related type of public art, are also considered part of the patere collection; because they share many of the same graphical motifs. They are often larger and are characterized by a rectangular shape, capped with a rounded arch; rather than being circular.
THE SYMBOLISM OF THE PATERAS AT THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEI CARMINI
Pateras often symbolise the struggle between good and evil – virtue over vice.
Perhaps one of the finest and typical examples, are to found on the north door of the church of Santa Maria dei Carmini in the Dorsoduro district; located close to the south-western end of the Campo di Margherita.
Dating from the 12th c, these five pateras, are made from Greek marble. From top to bottom and left to right, they depict, an eagle pecking at a rabbit or hare, a gryphon pecking at a rabbit or hare, another eagle pecking at a rabbit or hare, a wader or pelican with a fish in its beak and another eagle pecking at a rabbit or hare.
The sun was frequently associated with Christ. The eagle with its double eyelids, is the only bird capable of looking directly into the sun, thus could be taken as a symbol of spiritual elevation. The rabbit of the hare symbolises the lower instincts of mankind. The eagle by pecking at them, represents the struggle between good and evil; the ultimate striving to break free through the sacrifice of Christ and the Holy Eucharist.
The pelican too, symbolises Christ’s sacrifice and the fish represents Christ himself.
In the Middle Ages, it was believed that the pelican nourished its young, by drawing blood by pecking at its chest; symbolising Christ’s sacrifice. Actually, it feeds its young by regurgitating fish.
The Greek word for fish is icthus, an acronym for “Iesious Christos Theou Uious Soter” (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour). Christ’s birth was also said to have brought the beginning of the sign of Pisces, the last sign of the zodiac.
THE CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA DEI CARMINI
Originally called Santa Maria Assunta, building of the church began in 1286 and was consecrated in 1348; however, the facade in renaissance style is recent. It was rebuilt during the 1500 in marble and bricks, it is decorated with some interesting lunettes by Giovanni Buora, there are also some roofline statues of Elisha and Elijah the founders of the order. Also some parts of the church interior are date 1500 in particular the presbytery and the lateral Chapel, built around 1506 and 1514 by Sebastiano Mariani.
On the left side there is a beautiful gothic portal (300) and the bell tower by Giuseppe Sardi, surmounted by a statue of Madonna del Carmine, this is a recent operas by Romano Vio (1982). A previous one was destroyed by a thunderbolt.
Inside, on the opposite facade a magnificent funerary monument can be admired dedicated to Jacopo Foscarini, admiral of the Venetian fleet; he lived in the house in front of the church. The monument is by Francesco Contin.
Many other operas are present inside the church, to be mentioned the “ adoration of the sheperds” by Gianbattisat Cima da Conegliano, a picture painted around 1509 and 1511. the “ Madonna del Carmelo” with the Saints” (1595) by Pesce and Fontana, two statue of the Virgin and the humility.
By Corradini and Torritti, the miracle of the Mother Mary (1724), a representation made in wood carwed by Francesco Bernardoni. Many other artists has their operas inside the building: Pietro Bianchibni, Abbondio Stazio, Francesco Giorgio Martini, Jacopo Pala mil Giovane and many others.
The most important opera is by Jacopo Tintoretto: presentation of Jesus at the Temple (1541-1542)
The Church can be visited from Monday to Saturday from 14.30 to 17.30
The church originally was called Santa Maria Assunta, and first dated to the 14th century (circa 1348). The brick and marble facade contains sculpted lunettes by Giovanni Buora. Among the roofline decorations are images of, thought to be founders of the Carmelite order. The bell tower, designed by Giuseppe Sardi, is topped by a statue of the Madonna del Carmine sculpted in 1982 as a replacement by Romano Vio. The previous original was destroyed by lightning.
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Pateras – small, circular reliefs Pateras – small, circular reliefs Pateras – small, circular reliefs