Capitelli: restoration under the radar
In Venice: The Tourist Maze Davis & Marvin lament that most decisions, regarding the use and restoration of structures in Venice, rarely involve Venetians themselves. But sometimes, they write, locals are in complete control of the situation:
Ordinary Venetians have, for example, continued to tend their city's five hundred or so capitelli, or street-side shrines, "that adorn the intersection of a great many calli and canals, that illuminate dark sottoportici, or that reign on remote channel markers in the Lagoon." These little altars are part of a cultural tradition in Venice that dates back a millenium or more, though as works of art they have yet to appear on the aesthetic radar screens of UNESCO or APC. Still, modest as they are, these shrines require regular upkeep, generally from parishioners, who not only keep them in flowers and candles, but also clean, paint, and repair them when necessary. How well this work is done depends to a great extent on the "sensitivity" of the volunteers -- we never heard of anyone getting any special training in this sort of thing -- but then fixing up of such "popular" artwork is not usually subject to the same standards as those demanded for art in the recognized canon. However well the restoration is done, neighborhood people still appreciate the improvement, and they still come to make use of their local capitello -- for personal prayers, to leave ex voti, or to join together in the somewhat more formal business of chanting orations or reciting the rosary in the evenings.