Tradition has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to St Magnus, Bishop of Oderzo, in the form of a buxom ("formosa" in Italian) woman and told him to build her a church under a white cloud. The church was visited by the Doge and a procession of twelve young girls every 2nd of February. This procession of 'Marias' was to commemorate the rescue of the brides abducted by pirates from Istria and Trieste from San Pietro di Castello some time in 944. The current church was planned by Codussi but the exterior was completed after his death in 1504 by unknown hands. The façade onto the rio was erected in 1542 and commemorates Vincenzo Cappello, a sea captain who defeated the Turks. The façade onto the campo (maybe by Smeraldi) was completed in 1604 and contains portraits of other members of the Cappello family. The interior was renovated by a merchant named Torrino Tononi in 1689. The dome was repaired in 1668 after an earthquake and again in 1921 following a 1916 hit during Austrian bombing. On the arch at the base of the campanile is a grotesque "mascherone" - a carved head said to dispel evil spirits, which was much loathed by a somewhat squeamish John Ruskin. He also prudishly translated the word "formosa" as beautiful in his “Stones of Venice."
- Lorenzetti, Venice and Its Lagoon: Historical-Artistic Guide (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1961) as translated and with supplementary content by Taryn Marie Zarrillo, 2012/13