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A Magical Encounter


The more I blog about Torcello, the more I think of to say (and I’ve got photos galore) so this may keep going for a while. But I’m going to jump ahead to the best part – what happened in the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (my best church visit ever).

The Torcello cathedral celebrated "il millennio” (its thousandth anniversary) last year – it’s the oldest monumental building in the lagoon and is such a gorgeous place with everything I love about Venetian sacred architecture….lots of old glowing marble, a magical Madonna mosaic on the golden apse, multi-coloured mosaic floors, an ancient wooden ceiling, fresco fragments here and there, and Byzantine carvings with peacocks and flowers and twining grape vines.

So I was already blissed out just strolling around the cathedral when I looked over and saw two of the Torcello cats walk in the church, one a lovely long-haired fluffy cat and the other a cute short-haired tabby. They went over and climbed up onto the pews (it was a very cold day and I figure they wanted to get off those cold marble floors).

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I’m a cat lover and I’m also very interested in the cats of Venice. For the past several years, the first thing I’ve done after I’ve dumped my luggage off at the Locanda is go to feed the semi-feral cat colony on the porch of the church of San Lorenzo, and I’m always on the look-out for cats when I’m in Venice. I never expected to see them in this cathedral though!

So I went over and sat down close to them, but not too close because I didn’t want to scare them off. The San Lorenzo cats aren’t completely feral (they don’t run away in terror when humans come around) but they aren’t friendly either.

Well, the Torcello cats seemed okay so I moved a little closer to the tabby and finally reached out to see if it would let me touch it, and it did. The long-haired fluffy cat got down on the prayer rail at my feet, and I sat there and petted the tabby.


And then the tabby stood up and climbed into my lap, curled up, and went to sleep!

I felt like my heart was going to explode. It was so surprising and unexpected and sweet.

I flashed back to a post I did a couple of weeks before my trip….E.V. Lucas’ story about a cat climbing into his lap in the Frari. Lucas wrote his guidebook in the early 20th century and I loved his story but thought, that’s the kind of thing that might have happened a hundred years ago but would never happen now, they don’t let cats in churches anymore. So I was blown away when it happened to me too! I told this story to A Lover of Venice who said, “That’s what I would call a magical encounter” and it really was....

I sat there for about 30 minutes and held that cat and looked at the cathedral. Both cats were purring off and on. And it was fun to watch the faces of people who came into the cathedral. There weren’t a lot of tourists that day, but a steady stream of people was coming in. Most people looked at me and smiled but a few looked at me and made this face, like “Why in the world did that woman bring her cats to church?” Very funny.


I was so blissed out. It was by far the best visit I’ve ever had to any church, Venice or otherwise, and there’s no way to top it. I was so touched by these cats and if I could have figured out a way to bring them home with me, I would have. I did wish that someone had been with me to take a photo. The best I could do was snap a few non-flash photos of the fluffy cat (with glimpses of those amazing mosaic floors) and this one of the tabby’s head in my lap.


The photo at the very top of the post is what I was looking at as I sat there and held the cat. Then the church lady yelled at me to stop taking photos. :)

Finally, the long-haired cat on the prayer rail woke up and jumped up beside me. I petted it for a while too (its hair was very matted and I wished I'd had a comb). Then it nudged the tabby, and they both jumped down and left the church. When I left the church, I looked for them but didn’t see them again.

Okay, this was Torcello cat story Number One. More about the cathedral and Torcello cat story Number Two (!) coming soon.

A poster for the Torcello "il millenio" with another view of the interior of this amazing church.


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Comments (20)

Donna in SF:

That was just a fabulous story! I can't wait for the second installment.

Amazing post Annie!! Such friendly cats you keep on meeting! I also met one as I was walking out of that church. I did not dare take pictures in that church, I was not in the mood to be yelled at. I have to go back one day and spend more time to observe it, and maybe meet some nice cats!
Take care,

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, this was such a wonderful story. I just loved how they were so comfortable and friendly with you. And in a setting like this beautiful church on Torcello. It truly is a Magical Encounter and moment!

Thanks so much for sharing it with us and I loved your photos. I'm also looking forward to your 2nd story.

Have a great evening.

Cool! I am glad that you were able to share some affection with those guys. I can't wait to hear the next story.

What a beautiful Church. I love the mosaic floors. The story about the cats is great. Amazing about the one sitting in your lap.


As I said before, there are no cats in Venice. I saw only 2 cats in all of Venice over 2 weeks (I took pics of both of them), but I saw hundreds of cute little dogs! I plan to make a few beaded paintings inspired by what I saw in Venice. I like the idea of a cat in a church! :)

I am so sorry that I missed visiting Torcello. I love reading and seeing the cats but over all it sounds like an amazing place to visit.

What a great story, Annie! And truly a magical encounter.

That truly is a magical encounter. I'm glad you were able to sneak in a few photos before being yelled at. Looking foward to part 2.

I'm thrilled to see that you are still blogging about Torcello. I loved reading your sweet cat story and seeing the beautiful pictures of Santa Maria Assunta.

Keep the Torcello posts coming! I hope to get there next year!

Happy Sunday!


Love those floors. And such a sweet story!


Beautiful photos,Annie - the Church & the cats. What a sweet story!


Wow, that IS magical! I have a great cat care story to share, as soon as I heard it I thought oh I must write a blog entry for Annie! :) (I'll try to write it up soon, I know you'll love it.)

Happy Birthday to your Mom!!

Thanks for your comments everyone.

I didn't feel that guilty about taking photos since really, I was taking pics of the cats, not the church!


What a wonderful memory for you, Annie! I take it the church lady didn't scold "your" cats for coming inside for a while!

I look forward to the rest of the story, and in the meantime, I'll keep admiring your photos. This is a gorgeous church!


As usual, your photos are wonderful!

Thank you for sharing your story AND the photos!

I thought I had commented on this already but I guess it was just in my head! I loved, loved, loved this post - what a great experience. What sweet cats! (I was about to say kitties but they look big!)

Sandra, Nancy, anc Chiocciola, thanks for your comments. It is such a gorgeous church AND a great memory!


A cat on your lap in the church in Torcello!! Those are the most wonderful memories. I can totally understand how you felt "your heart was going to explode", mine would too.

Joanne, I'll never forget it!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 21, 2009 3:05 PM.

The previous post in this blog was PhotoHunt: Birds.

The next post in this blog is Vere da pozzo (Torcello).

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