This attractive late Byzantine style church was built between the 11th and 12th centuries, and was intended to be a 'martyrion' - for the purpose of holding the body of the martyred St Fosca, whose remains now lay under the altar, after being carried from Libya to Torcello around 1011.
Although the church was closed during my visit, I enjoyed walking around its exterior.
For some reason it reminded me of Agia Sophia in Trabzon, Turkey, which I'd visited in 1993. Probably due to its design, and partly for all the relics displayed around and nearby.
If I had seen inside, I would have found it to be in the Greek Cross style of plan, with a nave containing 3 apses. It also has a low cylindrical dome
It also boasts an external colonnade.
Behind the basilica is it's campanile (Bell Tower), with steep twisting ramps.
Open Daily (Though not Christmas Day it would seem!) 1000-1230 and 1400 -1700
Walking around the grounds of Santa Maria Assunta, we came across what we referred to as the 'home for wayward statues'. It was interesting to see some of the statues that presumably were located throughout the grounds in older days.
A short walk along the canal from the vaporetto landing will take you to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Established in 639 AD, the exterior looks a little rough, but inside you will find a series of elaborate Byzantine wall mosaics dating back to the 11th century. These include the Virgin and Child, located in the apse, and the Last Judgment, on the entrance wall. Though showing wear, the mosaics are still quite nice, especially given their age.
Also, be sure to see the bell tower. We were a bit rushed and had to skip checking it out thoroughly.
There is a 3.00 Euro entrance fee for each site.
This 'Cathedral' is recognised as being the oldest building in the lagoon and Venice. - it was founded in AD639 (The foundation stone inscribed with this date can be seen), but dates mostly from 1008.
Although no longer functioning as a cathedral, it does hold mass on Sundays through the summer, plus weddings and some religious festivals .
Visitors come here not just for its historical and architectural attraction, but to climb the square campanile, for views over the island, lagoon and beyond. (The climb is made easier by the stairs having been replaced by ramps)
I'm afraid I missed out on this experience, as it was closed at the time of my visit, and sadly The Basilica was closed when I visited, So I'll certainly have to return one day.
The Basilica is of Architectural interest, in being the best example of architecture from the middle ages, where Italian and Byzantine styles are in balance. It was re constructed extensively in the 9th century, and again around 1008.
Its 3 aisles are typically Latin. The blind arcading on the facade and apses, the square campanile are thought to have been created by stone masons from Lombard.
Further features of interest are the stone shutters held on stone hinges to be found on the side windows, and a baptistery located in front of the main portal - its foundations are the only evidence today.
The internal decoration is probably more of Byzantine influence - with 13th century mosaics (depicting Christ and the Apostles, the Virgin and Child and the Last Judgement). These are considered by many to be the finest in Italy apart from those seen in Ravenna.
Intricate coloured marble paving (the original flooring can be viewed through a trap door), and iconostasis - (altar screen) are among some of the many treasures on display. The Byzantine marble panels of the rood screen contain carvings of flowers, peacocks and lions, while the marble nave columns dating from the 11th century have finely carved capitals.
The altar is the original 7th century structure, and the marble pulpit is made of pieces from the 7th century church.
A Roman sarcophagus contains the relics of St Heliodorus-the first Bishop of Altinum (where the first settlers of this island originated.
The central apse is adorned by the 13th Century Byzantine Madonna (Madonna col Bambino), with a background of gold. The eyes are typically Byzantine in style. This piece is considered by many to be one of the most stunning pieces of Byzantine art in Italy. Below is a mosaic row depicting the 12 apostles.
Also look out for the Last Judgement which covers the whole of the West wall. This was probably started in the 12th Century, but restored in the 19th century.
This piece is divided into 6 levels. Starting from the top
1. The Crucifixion
2.The descent into Hell
3. Christ in Glory
4.The Beasts and Fishes give up their Human Prey
5. Michael Weighs the Souls on a scale
6. Mary comforts the Children, St Peter Guards the Gates of Paradise and Tortures of the Damned
In the right hand chapel apse is the mosaic-ed Christ and the Apostles
Open daily April - October 10.30 - 17.30 November - March 10.00 - 1700 (Last admission to the campanile is 30 minutes before the church closes)
Admission according to my 2004 guidebook - 3 euros, 4 euros for the Basillica and campanile, 6 euros for Basilica, campanile and museum
This white stone seat is also known as Trono di Attila or Sedia d' Attila
It is formed from a single piece of stone and is a popular place for taking pics of partners and friends posing!
It is found on the patch of grass near to the museum and opposite the Santa Fosca.
Local legend says that anyone sitting in this seat will be married within the year! - I didn't know about this until after my visit - I didn't sit on it! - Oh and surprise -I'm still not married (or re-married!!)
Historians are uncertain as to its origins and purpose, but it is widely believed to have been used either by Torcellos consuls in open air assemblies, a judges or Bishops chair, or even as the 5th century Attila, the king of the Huns throne.
The Devils Bridge, or Devils Little Bridge is to be seen while walking from the Vaporetto station to the Basilica, museums etc.
According to legend, the bridge was constructed by the devil over one night
It is undergoing renovation and repair. Amusingly, it appears to be taking a lot longer to repair than to build. It's been at least 2 years, and didn't appear to be nearing completion.
It is one of the few remaining bridges around Venice and the lagoon, that doesn't have parapets.
Many of the older bridges around Venice, have had parapets added over the years.
Behind the building that houses the Archaological Museum is a small building that contains a couple of toilets. You'll have to pay 1 Euro to get in through the turnstile but there will be someone there to help you if you have problems.
The campanile of Basilica di Santa Maria dell'Assunta is the highest building on the island and the views from the top are simply stunning. The gentle ramps inside make a change from the usual steep steps of other campaniles. On a clear day the outlines of the city of Venice can be seen on the distant horizon as can many other islands and the whole of Torcello.
One of the first lagoon islands to be settled, Torcello is now a shadow of its former self with a population of about 100. The Venitians salvaged most of the building materials from Torcello's historic past and little remains now. Its a lovely island and is very serene and quiet compared with all the other main islands. The main attraction is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, founded in 639 and with much 11th and 12th century Byzantine work, including mosaics (e.g. a vivid version of the Last Judgement). Other attractions include the 11th and 12th century Church of Santa Fosca, which is surrounded by a porticus in form of a Greek cross, and a museum housed in two 14th century palaces, the Palazzo dell’Archivio and the Palazzo del Consiglio, which was once the seat of the communal government. Another noteworthy thing for tourists is the camponile that has splendid views of the island for those fit enough to climb it, although the gentle ramps inside make the ascent easier. Torcello is also home to a Devil's Bridge, known as the Ponte del Diavolo.
After looking at the churches, I came across these statues in a small courtyard and then a few more in the vegetable garden
I was quite fascinated by them. For some reason the statue in the 2nd pic reminded me of Ozzy Osbourne in his Black Sabbath days.
And how to get to Torcello? Definetely by boat. We rented a boat for the whole day, and visited three beautiful islands: Murano Burano and Torcello. Captain of the boat and his assistant did all the best to have a great time, including italian songs, they sang for us
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is one of the most ancient and precious artistic and religious places of the Venetian Lagoon. Inside there are valuable mosaics, among which "Christ's apotheosis" and "The Universal Judgement"
We followed the path along the canal, that leads to the heart of the island. We passed Ponte del Diavolo Devil's Bridge -
A legendy about it said. - it is sow that it has been built in one night ... by the devil.
They're renovating it at the moment..
Torcello is the third island in the lagoon of Venice, we visited. Nowadays it is a small community, that holds only about hundred inhabitants. Centurees back, it was very important place with 20.000 people.
It only takes about 40 mins to reach Torcello by boat - just 10mins further than Burano. During the walk from the boating landing stage, along the Fondamenta dei Borgognoni, to the main square, along Torcello's only navigable canal you will see this bridge without parapet - one of only two of its kind in Venice Lagoon. Unlike the other one in Venice though I didn't care to stand on this one - it looked rather crumbly and I didn't fancy a tumble into the canal!
P.S. during our vist in July 2004 the canal area was being renovated and this path was closed off - a diversion was in place.