Torcello. If you ever come to Venice you will be bathed in some of the most sumptuous renaissance, baroque, modern and contemporary art imaginable. But if you leave without visiting Torcello you will not have properly treated your soul. Whichever myth of Venice and the visitations of the hun you are prepared to believe or deem to be tosh, Torcello will convince you that the fourth century inhabitants of this mosquito infested swamp had faith.
There is not much left now but a cathedral, a greek church and a few outbuildings across ten miles of the lagoon from Venice, but within the cathedral are the two most amazing mosaics you will see. Ruskin described them, in ways that only he can, as Jesus Christ in mercy and Jesus Christ in judgement. At the apse end is the Virgin Mary with the apostles in attendance in the main apse in a sea of gold, with Christ Pantocrator in a side apse with the archangels Michael and Gabriel and the four ‘Doctors’ of the early church..
The last judgement mosaic at the west end is the Byzantine world view translated to the Veneto. The mosaic rises from floor to roof. The first three registers tell the story of Christ’s crucifixion, his time in hell, the harrowing the corpses led by Adam, and his glorious resurrection. The lower three registers tell of the last days, the rejection of the dead by the land and the sea and the tussle between the Archangel Michael and the devil to weigh the souls of the resurected souls. The lower scenes describe the saved in peace in heaven and the lost souls being fed to the hells mouth and satan.
There is much more to see in this cathedral of the past but if you do nothing else stand in front of this mosaic from the past and let it talk to you – it will.