From some of our readers we have been reported a review on the island of Torcello.
We hope it is a fake and we take the cue to tell the story of an island that surely is not “insignificant”.
The archaeological research carried out in Torcello in the years 1961-62, shows that there was already a stable settlement since the Roman period. When in the 7th century A.D. the Lombards overran Altino, a Roman city since the imperial time, its inhabitants took refuge in Torcello bringing with them their treasures, in particular the relics of St. Heliodorus, the first bishop of Altino and patron, following the Torcello territory.
The foundation of the cathedral entitled to the Assumption also coincided with the transfer of the Diocese of Altino to the island. Proof of this continuity is the fact that the future bishops of Torcello continued to define themselves until the beginning of the 11th century.
The island formed, together with the nearby Mazzorbo, Burano, the bridgehead of Venetian trade towards the Adriatic Sea and was so flourishing, that it had thousands of inhabitants.
In the 11th century the cathedral was rebuilt, flanked by the new church of Santa Fosca, and until the 14th century Torcello was the main centre for the processing of wool in the Duchy of Venice.
In the fifteenth century, however, the flourishing islands of the lagoon will leave room for reeds and boring to show a linear and flat geographical landscape and the main families will leave Torcello to move to Venice, where the most flourishing businesses are now. Following the unstoppable decline, the buildings were ruined or dismantled to provide bricks and building material for the building development of Venice. One of the causes of the depopulation of the territory of the upper lagoon was without doubt the burying of the rivers, especially of the Sile which reduced Torcello and the islands adjacent to swampy land, systematically infested by malaria.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta already a cathedral of the suppressed diocese of Torcello, was restructured in the present form around the year 1000. Singular feature: It consists of the windows with taxes formed by slabs of stone. The Western Wall, corresponding to the main entrance, is occupied, inside, by a mosaic in the Byzantine style of big dimensions representing the universal judgement, at the base of which is a praying Madonna, motif that also characterizes The apse of the Basilica of Saints Mary and Donato in Murano.
For many years between the second half of the 11th century and the second half of the XII the church of Santa Maria Assunta received the most important cycle of mosaics of northern Italy, and certainly among the most imposing in Italy along with those of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
The presbytery is separated from the aisles through an iconostasis, formed in the upper part by slender marble columns with Byzantine capitals and, at the bottom, by bas-reliefs of peacocks and lions and a series of wooden planks with sacred images.
At the centre of the apse stands the main altar: it encloses the remains of Sant’Eliodoro, the first bishop of Altino. To the left of the altar an inscription on stone, dating back to the foundation of the church, constitutes the first document of Venetian history:
In the name of the Lord God our Jesus Christ, during the Empire of our Lord Heraclius always Augustus, in the year 29th, Indiction Thirteenth, was made the Church of St. Mary Mother of God, by order of our pious and devout Lord Isaac, Excellency Exarch and Patrician, and, God willing, was dedicated in favor of his merits and his army. This was built from the very foundation thanks to the Glorious magister militum of the province of Venezie, Benemerito Maurizio, residing in this place, with the consecration by the saint and Reverend Mauro, happily Bishop of this church.
The Church of Santa Fosca, which dates back to the 12th century, has a Greek cross plan and a portico with marble columns and capitals that recaptures the architectural motif of the interior. The Greek cross churches are very rare and are a symptom of Byzantine cultural domination, which Venice underwent between the 9th and 12th centuries.
In the clearing overlooking the two sacred buildings, also bordered by the Palazzo del Podestà, seat of the Provincial Museum of Torcello, there is the so-called “Throne of Attila”, more likely a seat reserved for magistrates responsible for administering justice.
The Devil’s Bridge, which oversteps an inner canal, preserves the characteristic shape without parapets, the original feature of all Venetian bridges.