Torcello, Italy

Although Torcello is now a small community of about 50-100 inhabitants in the lagoon of Venice, during the Middle Ages it had a population of about 10,000 and was an important political and trading center. After the downfall of Rome, Venetians fled from the barbarian invasions to take refuge and settle on Torcello. By 638 AD, Torcello became the bishop’s of Altino’s see for more than a thousand years, and the relics of Saint Heliodorus were brought to the island. Torcello was an outpost of the Byzantine Empire and benefited from cultural and trading ties with the eastern capital. After the 12th century, Torcello’s salt marshes became swampy, making trade navigation impossible so most of the population left for other islands or Venice. It is the oldest continuously populated area in Venice and its environs.

Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta, Torcello, ItalyTorcello is a refreshing change of pace from crowded Venice and tourists may visit it by ferry boat or water taxi. The walk from the boat to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta takes about 15 minutes and the cathedral is filled with lovely 11th and 12th Century Byzantine art. It is the oldest building in the surrounding area, being founded in 639 AD. The cathedral holds mass on Sundays in the summer, plus some religious festivals and weddings. Its walls are covered with a mosaics of the Last Judgment, Christ and the Apostles and the Virgin and Child. The altar dates to its 7th century construction. The relics of St. Heliodorus are also in this cathedral. Taking the gentle ramp to the campanile of the basillica affords a stunning view of the outlines of Venice on the horizon. Another interesting church is the Church of Santa Fosca with three apses and a lovely sculpture on the altar from the 15th Century.

Torcello’s museum is housed in two 14th Century palaces. One known as the Palazzo del Consiglio, was the former seat of the communal government.

The Throne of Attila is a white stone seat that is a perfect spot for a rest and photo right next to the Santa Fosca.It is presumed to have been used by judges or bishops or perhaps even Attila the Hun himself. The legend is that those who sit on the stone will be married within a year.

Torcello is about three feet above sea level and it is considered a humid subtropical climate. Temperatures in July, the hottest month, average about 81.3 degrees F. January is the coldest month at about 32 degrees F.


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