Torcello Cathedral, The Basilca di Santa Maria Assunta, in the Venetian Lagoon must be one of the most evocative places in Italy to visit. It’s fifty metre high tower announces its presence for miles around over the calm water. What makes it so special to us is it’s serenity and historical place as the legendary birth of Venice. Away from the manic bustle of Venice and the popular Islands of Murano and Burano, Torcello is so peaceful. We have missed Venice, so after three years it was particularly welcome to have time to come here.I
Floods affected the cathedral in 2019 but it is good to see renovation work complete, especially to the remarkable pavement floor, which is now completely exposed following the removal of the wooden pews. The original tenth century floor is some twelve inches lower and its black and white cubes are exposed in parts. The thirteenth century pavement has Eastern influence and set out in geometric designs with arabesque wheels, with the western romanesque represented with animals and beasts.
My original post three years ago focussed on the three mosaics, the Virgin with the apostles in the main apse, the Christ with the Doctors of the Church in the side apse, and the stunning Last Judgement filling the west end counter facade. They are truly wonderful medieval mosaics in the Eastern Tradition. The mosaic in the counter facade describes the meaning of the resurrection and the warning of the last judgement. The guide describes this wall as the finest representation of this concept in the west. Bold praise but entirely worthy.
As well as the Basilica there is the smaller church of Santa Fosca based on a Greek cross. This is an even more serene space with the cubic shape and the altar complete with the relics of the Saint. There is palace which is now a museum but the rest of the old city centre has long gone, providing building materials for Renaissance Venice. Ironically the first city was probably destroyed by a major flood in the fifth century.
From a practical point of view, to access Torcello, by Vaporetti, the local boat service, is hard work and it took us three different boats to reach it taking over an hour, and in late August / early September they are very congested. We have agreed that next time we come here, we will take the water taxi. The Island has two of the best restaurants in Venice. There is the Locando Cipriani, where Ernest Hemingway stayed in 1948 and wrote his novel ‘Across the river and into the trees‘. It’s many celebrity visitors even included Queen Elizabeth. We simply had a coffee but ate at the other one restaurant, The Osteria Al Ponte del Diavalo.
While in Venice there is of course much to see including the churches, palaces, galleries and the Biennale. In the end we settled for a front row seat and meal at the Rialto watching famous Regata Storica on The Grand Canal and soaking up this great city of Art and it’s atmosphere.