The Basilica of Santa Maria e San Donato dates back to the 7th century, when the Murano archipelago in the Venetian lagoon was inhabited by those seeking refuge from Germanic invasions.

Originally, the church was only dedicated to Santa Maria. The addition of “e San Donato” comes from the quarrel between the parish of the church and the parish of the neighboring church of Saint Stefano. Each parish one-upped each other by continuously developing ornate decorated interiors and acquiring more exquisite relics.

The quarrel was settled by the Doge of Venice Domenico Michiel in 1125. Sailing on a crusade to the Holy Land, he acquired the remains of Saint Donatus from Byzantine Greece, along with bones said to be from a dragon slain by the saint.

Saint Severinus’ Passio tells the tradition of many miraculous works by Saint Donatus. Among which were bringing back to life a woman giving sight back to a blind woman, exorcising a demon, and fighting and slaying dragon that had poisoned the local well.

Today the bones rest behind the altar, four rib bones hanging from wires more than 3.5 feet long. Some believe the bones are from giant extinct Ice Age animals.

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