Actually, her home was in the foreground of this picture, closer to the old covered well and the canal, and was torn down in the Fourteenth Century.The Contessa, who apparently gained her title based on her family's role in a war with Genoa, was very devout as a child. She would often cross the Grand Canal in a gondola to pray in the Church of San Maurizio, located on the opposite side. Her view of the San Maurizio side of the canal would have appeared somewhat like this.
Thus, the next time that she set out to cross the Grand Canal to pray, every gondolier she approached denied her request for a ride. Finally, she went to the edge of the canal, took a linen cloth and, stretching it out on the water, stepped onto it and floated across.
There's more to the Contessa's story, filled with debates on miracles and myths, cults and devotions. For centuries Venetian mothers would set their infants over the entombed remains of the Contessa, praying for their safety in avoiding drowning in the canals.
For some time I've wondered what eventually happened to the remains of the Contessa. As noted, her home is no longer standing, nor is the original San Vio Church, where she was first interred. Past writings indicate her remains were next carried to the San Maurizio Church, which was later rebuilt. However, the reconstructed San Maurizio Church eventually was deconsecrated and now houses a beautiful collection of antique musical instruments. Here's what it looks like today. (Pay no attention to the unrelated protest going on out front, or the leaning bell tower from another church in the background. These things happen in Italy.)
Needing to start somewhere, I visited the musical instrument museum, and was pleased to see several works of art and engravings from the old church intact. Although the former sacristy was locked, one could look through a glass window to what appeared to be an area for repairing or cleaning old instruments.
Before leaving, I approached the museum curator, who offered a word of greeting. At the risk of posing what might seem a very curious question, I asked him, as kindly as possible, if he knew of the story of the Contessa Tagliapietra. Our conversation, partly in Italian, partly in English, went something like this.
"Hello. Please, I speak little Italian, but do you know of the story of the Contessa Tagliapietra?"
"You ask, so I am wondering, do you know the story of the Contessa?"
"Yes, I do, how she floated across the canal, and I am wondering what happened to her remains."
"She is here!"
Recognizing my surprise and interest, he momentarily left his post and led me back through the old church to the sacristy door. He pointed through the window to what appeared to be a small white marble altar, reliquary or tomb, dark on the front, with wind instruments, a statue and some type of box on top. Within the tomb, he said, are the remains of the Contessa Tagliapietra.