Following the restoration of the Royal Gardens of St Mark’s in Venice, and in keeping with the cardinal principles of
patronage – the protection of nature and promotion of the arts and of knowledge – the Venice Gardens Foundation
is currently engaged in the restoration of the extensive Convent Garden, together with its Vegetable Plots, Meditation Chapels, Old Workshops, Greenhouse and Apiary, of the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. Built by the Venetian Republic and Pope Gregory XIII to celebrate the end of the 1575-1577 plague, this historic compound extends from the Giudecca Canal to the south lagoon and is an outstanding expression of the spirituality of the Capuchin Order.
For centuries Convent Gardens, with their orchards (pomaria), herb gardens (horti simplicium), flowers, wooded areas and beehives (apiaria), were a valuable source of food and medicinal herbs, of vital importance to community life. The Garden has always been considered a precious asset, repaying the immense labour of husbandry with physical sustenance in the form of crops and spiritual sustenance in the form of meditation and prayer, in contemplation of the wonders of creation. The convent compound has never been open to the public. Currently, it exhibits signs of age-related neglect as well as damage by the “acqua granda”, the record 187-cm high tide which in November
2019 submerged and devastated the city of Venice. It was to prevent any further loss of this important historical record of Venetian landscape, culture and religion, exemplar for the Capuchin Franciscans of “Paradise on earth”, that, on 19 May 2021, the historic site was entrusted to the Venice Gardens Foundation by the Provincial Curia Capuchin Friars Minor, with the authorization of the Holy See (Congregatio pro Institutis Vitae Consecratae et Societatibus Vitae Apostolicae) and the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio.
The aim of the project is to effect the restoration, care, cultivation and the opening of the compound to visitors, while mantaining the spirit of the place. It seeks to ensure that the design endures through time and at the same time is firmly rooted in the important tradition of convent gardens, in acknowledgement of the richness of their history and their capacity for experimentation. It must also look to the future with a sense of engagement born of awareness and responsibility: sustainability and self-sufficiency will be the constant guiding principles
The Foundation has entrusted the internationally renowned gardener and landscape architect Paolo Pejrone to carry out the botanical restoration of the site. A student of Russell Page and Roberto Burle Marx, Pejrone has worked on numerous projects including the restoration in Rome of the convent garden of the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. Alessandra Raso, whose experience includes restoring buildings of historical and artistic significance and collaboration with cultural institutions such as the Venice Biennale and Milan Triennale, is responsible for the architectural restoration.
The botanical aspect of the project is financed by the European Union’s NextGenerationEU, with a contribution
of two million euros (PNRR Ministry of Culture Restauro e valorizzazione di parchi e giardini storici) and the architectural
restoration project is supported by generous donors.