The charm of Venice is not only made up of the emotions the city gives to its visitors, but also of the mystery hiding in buildings and works of art, as a heritage of secrets and mystical practices of the past centuries.
Cà Bonfadini, historic residence of the Jewish Vivante family in the nineteenth century, is itself a standing heritage characterized by a hunger for knowledge, mysterious rituals, and secret gatherings.
During the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, the esoteric philosophical beliefs of alchemy and its rituals found fertile ground in Venice.
The craving for knowledge, together with rudiments of physics, chemistry, and astrology in combination with metallurgy and medicine studies, took root in the city. The process was fostered in the Jewish Ghetto by the awareness of Kabbalah that had connection with alchemy.
During the late Renaissance, alchemy lost its appeal because of the rising of the Scientific Method, although in the eighteenth century some of its rituals were carried on again from the emerging of Freemasonry.
The “Sestiere di Cannaregio” district, where Ca’ Bonfadini is located, houses some of the more important heritage of these mystery-surrounded practices.
Only a few people are aware of those mystic signs, in fact the clues of this esoteric itinerary are in the plain sight.
After a short walk, the architrave of a church lets us learn about a secret organization, said to be joined also by Giacomo Casanova and Antonio Canova: the Masonic Lodge which practiced the rules of alchemy, following philosophy, chemistry, and esotericism.
At about 10 minutes walking from Cà Bonfadini is located the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, known also as “Church of the Maddalena”, one of the many architectural beauties of this wonderful city.
Considering the circular shape, you can already say that it is an unusual architecture for Venice.
Built on a pre-existing structure, the church was completely renovated in the second half of the eighteenth century in a neoclassical style; history tells us that the church was built according to the doctrines of Freemasonry.
On the architrave is carved the eye inside the circle and in a pyramid: that is one of the best-known symbols of the organization.
Not far from the Church of the Maddalena, along the “Rio della Misericordia” canal, is located Palazzo Lezze: it is a beautiful seventeenth-century building, that could go unnoticed due to its discreet position.
But it is sufficient to stop by and look carefully to see the “patàre” (“tiles” decorated with historic or mythical features), some real alchemical tales: swans, snakes and crocodiles have a connection with natural elements, components at the basis of the mixtures studied by alchemists.
From the “Sestiere di Cannaregio” district the journey continues through alleys and squares, brushes past the “Sestiere di Castello” neighborhood and reaches St. Mark’s Basilica.
Here four columns standing at the façade are adorned with looped squares, the arcane symbols of the union between two elements. The Freemason mark that, when stylized, becomes the Star of David (the father of Solomon).
A “gift” left by the workers who built the Basilica.
From St. Mark’s Square, the journey continues to the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory.
What is known today as the Museum of Music was once home to the Pisani Family during the eighteenth century, an ancient patrician dynasty (among them was also a Doge by the name of Alvise Pisani, who ruled the city from 1735 to 1741).
Areas entirely dedicated to Freemason symbology were unearthed during a recent restoration. Based on historical reconstructions it appears that those seven rooms had been created to house a Freemason temple that presents a lay out still heavily influenced by Kabbalah.
The last stop of the itinerary is Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, the largest church in Venice.
We are in the “Sestiere di San Polo” district, a lively, shop-filled location.
Among the many artistic treasures kept here is the tomb of Antonio Canova. While the sculptor himself is buried elsewhere, his heart is preserved in an urn inside the church.
A pyramidal cenotaph, decorated with mythological figures, is a reminder of one of the chief representatives of Freemasonry.
The pyramid is in fact the symbol of The Great Architect of the Universe, the supreme deity of the Freemasons. In alchemy, it indicates an entity between spiritual substance and our five senses, and in Kabbalah it expresses growth and expansion.
The itinerary that began with a triangle engraved on a church façade ends with a pyramid at the heart of a place of worship, places that hold secrets and mysteries since the beginning of time.