The Islands Archives

October 20, 2007

Churches on the Lagoon Islands

torcelloSome of the oldest, most beautiful, and most magical churches are out in the lagoon - the two ancient churches on Torcello and Santi Maria e Donato on Murano are among my all-time favorites. This photo of Santa Fosca was taken from the Torcello campanile - one of three campanili in Venice that you can go into and up for an aerial view. And this particular one does not have an elevator/lift like the ones in San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore do! It's not a bad climb though - you climb on ramps rather than stairs.

Go to Torcello! (That's what I tell anyone who asks me about visiting any of the lagoon islands).


Churches on the Lagoon Islands

Santa Maria Assunta (Torcello)
Santa Fosca (Torcello)

San Pietro Martire (Murano)
Santa Maria degli Angeli (Murano)
SS. Maria e Donato (Murano)
Santa Chiara (former church, now a glass factory)

San Martino (Burano)
Santa Maria delle Grazie (Burano)
Santa Caterina (Mazzorbo)

San Francesco del Deserto
San Lazzaro degli Armeni
San Clemente
San Servolo
Sacca Sessola
Santa Maria delle Grazie (Isola di SM delle Grazie)

Cristo Re (Isola di Sant’Erasmo)
Sant’Eurosia alle Vignole (Isola delle Vignole)

Santa Maria della Vittoria (Lido)
Santa Maria Elisabetta (Lido)
San Nicolo del Lido (Lido)
Sant’ Antonio (Lido)
Sant’ Ignazio (Lido)
Santa Maria Assunta (Malamocco)
Santa Maria della Salute Alberoni (Alberoni)

This list came from the Patriarch of Venice website.

January 30, 2009

PhotoHunt: Furry


This week's theme is "furry."

My cats can't believe that I'm not posting one of the hundreds of photos I have taken of them for "furry"!

But I couldn't resist the green furry-looking moss on these old statues I saw on the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon. I might have to do "Furry, Part Two" next week to keep the cats happy though. :)



You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here.

Happy Super Bowl weekend everyone!

April 10, 2009

PhotoHunt: Triangle


This week's theme is "Triangle."

Many triangles decorate the apse of the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato (also known as San Donato di Murano), a church built in 1140 on the island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon.

This is one of the oldest and finest churches in Venice. Inside, there's a beautiful golden mosaic of Mary, and amazing multi-colored Byzantine mosaic floors with foilage and peacocks.




You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here. A few more photos of the church are below the jump.

Happy holiday weekend and happy Spring!

Continue reading "PhotoHunt: Triangle" »

May 18, 2009

Corte Sant' Andrea

A pretty little corte in the sestiere of San Marco with a vera da pozzo used as a planter. The corte is named for a demolished church, Sant' Andrea della Certosa (or Sant' Andrea of the Lido), that was out on an lagoon island close to the Lido. The Sant' Andrea monks owned a hospice in town where they would stay when they rowed over to Venice for business. The hospice was built in 1272, and this relief (showing St. Andrew and worshippers) was added in the 14th century.



Continue reading "Corte Sant' Andrea" »

September 18, 2009

PhotoHunt: Upside Down


This week's theme is "Upside Down." Fun theme!

Pretty much everyone who goes to Venice with a camera ends up taking reflection-in-a-canal photos; it's just irresistible. Plus, you never know what you'll get since it all depends on the time of day, the position of the sun, etc.

I took these on a cold and cloudy winter day on Torcello, a beautiful island in the Venetian lagoon. I've flipped them upside down. The red brick in the upper right corner is the sidewalk I was standing on when I took the photos.

Torcello canal, upside down

In this next one, you can see the bell tower of Santa Maria Assunta, Torcello's thousand-year-old cathedral, down in the bottom right corner. It's upside down because I flipped the photo! It's also covered with scaffolding for restoration work.


You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here.

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

September 21, 2009

Burano cat colony

When I was strolling around the island of Burano looking for shrines, I found a little corte filled with cats.

These two were not that happy to see me. I barely got this photo before they ran off and disappeared.


The other adults pretty much ignored me and continued with their meditations on life.



This beauty seems to be sticking her tongue out at me.


But then I was approached by this incredibly friendly and talkative orange kitten. He was chattering away, rubbing against my ankles, trying to climb my leg, and just generally demanding attention and petting (which he got). He was like a cross between my two cats back home - LuLu's looks and Maria's chatty personality.

Italian kitten (Burano)

Continue reading "Burano cat colony" »

October 12, 2009

Torcello (part one)


So the three highlights of my December trip to Venice were the Joy Singers concert in the church of Santo Stefano, my daytrip to Padua to see the Giotto frescoes, and the day I spent on Torcello. And I can’t believe I haven’t written about Torcello yet! It’s mainly because I took so many photos that day and it’s taken me a while to go through them and also because I just didn’t know where to start, it was such a wonderful day with my best church visit ever.

It’s easy to get there from Venice. Go to the vaporetto stop on Fondamenta Nuove in Cannaregio and catch boat LN (Laguna Nord) which is the express boat to Burano. There you change boats to line T (for Torcello). The whole trip takes about 45 minutes to an hour and it’s a fun ride. You’ll pass San Michele, the cemetery island, with its beautiful Renaissance church, cruise past Murano and then by a number of romantic and mysterious abandoned lagoon islands with ruins on them. You can enjoy the crazy colors of Burano either before or after the trip to Torcello.

But why go to Torcello? Lots of reasons (and it’s going to take many blog posts to share them all) but in the words of writer Henry James, go to Torcello because enchantment lurks there. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.



Continue reading "Torcello (part one)" »

October 14, 2009

When you get there (Torcello)

When you get to Torcello, the first thing you see is a shrine to Madonna right there at the vaporetto landing. In the distance, you see the campanile of the cathedral. Turn around to see how vast and lonely and beautiful the lagoon looks.

Lagoon view from Torcello

To get to the piazza and the churches, you walk about a third of a mile along the main canal. The modern brick sidewalk you walk on is a bit controversial (more about that later). You don’t have to walk very far before you begin to see cats. Lots of cats! The Torcello cat colonies are what I expected to see when I first went to Venice but didn’t. There are cats in the gardens, cats hanging out with the young girls working at the souvenir kiosk, cats lounging around the piazza, cats on the rooftops of houses, even cats inside the cathedral!




Continue reading "When you get there (Torcello)" »

October 20, 2009

Work Underway (Torcello)


I saw a "Work Underway" sign at the vaporetto landing on Torcello, but I didn’t know that this work was so controversial until I read the book, Venice: The Tourist Maze , and learned about what the locals refer to as "lo scempio di Torcello" (the ruination of Torcello). In 1999, a plan was unveiled to widen the vaporetto landing and the fondamenta along the main canal and rebuild them with modern materials. The book reports that by May 2000, posters were plastered all over Venice and other lagoon islands that read:

"Goodbye Torcello! The Magistrato alle Acque is spending 28 billion lire to devastate the island with cyclopian works in steel and reinforced concrete. Of the very ancient charm of the island there will not remain a trace. Visit it while you can, because before too long you won't recognize it anymore."


Continue reading "Work Underway (Torcello)" »

October 27, 2009

Santa Fosca

Santa Fosca

This is the smaller of the two churches that remain on Torcello and was built in the 11th century to house the body of the third-century virgin martyr saint, whose body and that of her nurse and fellow martyr, Santa Maura, were brought to Torcello in the 10th century. Santa Fosca was a local girl of sorts, from Ravenna, who was enormously popular in the Middle Ages (there’s also a church dedicated to her in Venice in Cannaregio).

This is a perfectly harmonious little Byzantine church built on a Greek Cross plan with a wooden ceiling and very little decoration inside. There’s something very magical about the simplicity of the interior of this one. The porch connecting Santa Fosca with the cathedral was added in the 16th century.


Continue reading "Santa Fosca" »

November 3, 2009

Ruins of the Baptistry


In front of the Torcello cathedral are the ruins of the 7th century baptistry – a round and romantic hole-in-the-ground that in December 2008 was filled with water. Not sure what's so fascinating and attractive about these ruins but I stood and looked at this for a long time.

In the early days of Christianity, it was common to build a separate baptistry so that believers could be purified before entering the church. Two of the most famous free-standing baptistries in Italy are the one in Florence across from the Duomo and the one in Pisa with its amazing acoustics. At some point, churches began including the baptistry as a chapel or separate room that's inside the church itself.


Continue reading "Ruins of the Baptistry" »

November 21, 2009

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).

Continue reading "A Magical Encounter" »

November 22, 2009

Vere da pozzo (Torcello)

First, I'd like to say Bon Voyage and safe travels to Kathy (Trekcapri) who leaves for Scotland tomorrow! Have a great time, and I can't wait to read all about it (and see your photos).

Back to my ramblings about my day at Torcello (at the pace I'm going, it's going to take me a month to blog about that one day!).

There are a bunch of these old well-heads on Torcello, and several of them have cool carvings on them. This cube-shaped one with a Greek cross on each side is probably the oldest vera da pozzo in the lagoon (eighth century or so).


Many of the well-heads in Venice have carvings of water jugs on them, and several on Torcello did too~


I like the tree on this one~


Continue reading "Vere da pozzo (Torcello)" »

November 23, 2009

Santa Maria Assunta

“Torcello is a reclaimed wilderness…Nature’s eternal youth smiles in the midst of these ruins. The air was balmy and only the sound of the cicadas disturbed the religious hush of the morning.” ~ George Sand


Santa Maria Assunta, the cathedral of Torcello, was founded in 639, rebuilt in 864 and again in 1008. What we see today is largely 11th century with a few mosaics and fragments from the earlier churches. In 1929, archeologists unearthed the altar from the 7th century church and returned it to the chancel during a restoration that removed some later Baroque additions (thank goodness they took that stuff away!).

I took only four photos inside this cathedral (and they are in my Torcello church cats post), but I did find some scanned photos to share. Since better writers than me have heaped praise on this amazing church, I’m going to let them help describe it.

Continue reading "Santa Maria Assunta" »

November 25, 2009

The Stones of Torcello


There's so much cool stuff to see and photograph on Torcello. The stone chair above is called The Throne of Attilla because of a legend that it belonged to Attilla the Hun, whose rampage through the mainland drove the early citizens of Torcello into the lagoon. More than likely, it was a magistrate's chair but the name has stuck. It's supposed to be good luck to sit in it and I even overheard one tourist tell her friend that if you sit in it, you'll be married within a year. I didn't test it out. :)

A beautiful fragment on the side of Santa Fosca~


Outside the museum, there's a long wall with all kinds of reliefs, stone fragments, saints and such. And this wild guy, whoever he is~


Continue reading "The Stones of Torcello" »

December 1, 2009

The Oratory and the Campanile


Behind the Torcello cathedral is the small Oratory of San Marco Evangelista, built on the site where St. Mark rested on his way to Venice (or more accurately, where the guys who stole his body rested?). Legend has it that the merchants who rescued/stole the saint from his grave in Egypt were both Torcello citizens; perhaps they stopped by their home on their way to deliver the prized body to the Doge.

In December 2008, the oratory was behind a construction fence so I couldn’t get close enough to really check it out. It’s a cute little place though, and there are some intriguing ruins around it that I couldn’t get close to either.


John Ruskin said that the view from the 12th century campanile (bell tower) is “one of the most notable scenes in this wide world of ours.” You can see the wide expanse of the lagoon and the bell towers of the Venice skyline in the distance.

Continue reading "The Oratory and the Campanile" »

January 26, 2010

The other Torcello cat story

I'm determined to finish my Torcello series sooner rather than here's the second cat story. This one isn't quite as dramatic as the cat who got on my lap in the cathedral, but still, It was such a strangely feline day, especially since after I left Torcello and went to Burano, I ran into another colony of cats that included a little orange kitten who tried to climb my leg.

Anyway, I stopped to pet and photograph all the many cats lounging along the canal leading down to the Piazza where the churches are. Because it was such a gray day and it wasn't raining at the time, I decided to walk around the island for a while before I went into the churches. So I was moseying along and all of a sudden, I glanced over and realized I had a companion. One of the Torcello cats had left his/her compatriots and decided to join me on my walk.


I was happy for the company and we walked together for about 20 minutes or so. Every once in a while, I'd stop and get the camera out, and the cat would stop and pose.


Continue reading "The other Torcello cat story" »

February 3, 2010

Torcello: famous visitors

Torcello’s famous five-star inn, the Locanda Cipriani, has a great “Our Memories” web page which chronicles all the many famous people who have visited. It's an impressive list of royalty, artists, writers, and movie stars, and it's hilarious to read because it’s decidedly NOT chronological, and all other visitors seem to be designated as either “Before Hemingway” or “After Hemingway.”

And yes, Hemingway is at the top of the list, maybe because he not only visited Torcello many times but when he did, he tended to stay for extended periods rather than just popping in for lunch as many of the other celebrities did. In the fall of 1948, Hemingway spent a month on Torcello where wrote his Venice novel, Across the River and Into the Trees.

Confession: I tried to read this novel and I just couldn’t do it. I ended up skimming most of it and only reading the descriptions of Venice. Torcello gets a few brief mentions, but there is one nice part when the “hero” visits the Rialto Market.

Continue reading "Torcello: famous visitors" »

February 9, 2010

Torcello in art

A few works of art depicting Torcello. This lovely drawing is by John Ruskin~


And another Ruskin drawing, this one comparing the capitals of Torcello's Santa Maria Assunta with those of San Marco~

Ruskins capitals

Continue reading "Torcello in art " »

March 2, 2010

Attenti !

When I was wandering around Torcello, I saw this "Beware of the Dog" sign on a house. I heard barking and kept on walking...


Pretty soon I saw the "scary" dog and had to laugh! He was barking loudly but also wagging his stubby little tail. Terrifyingly cute...


Then the next day when I was back in Venice, I was walking around looking for churches and shrines in the sestiere of San Marco, and saw this "Beware of the Cat" sign on the door of a house. This one really made me laugh. Didn't hear any meowing or hissing though, and saw no sign of the fearsome feline...


And then a couple of days later, I saw another "Beware of the Cat" sign on a calendar in a Venetian paper store window. This time the warning was in English! I really wanted to buy this calendar, but the store was closed.


March 31, 2010

Dragon Bones

You gotta love the Internet. Yesterday I wrote that I'd love to see the dragon bones in the church of San Donato, and within hours I had photos of them in my email box!

And even better, my blog friend AnnaLivia told me that I could post her photos on my blog. I'm so grateful to her! The best part of blogging has been all the friends I've "met" from all over the world. :)

AnnaLivia has one of the most beautiful Venice blogs there is (Mes Carnets Vénitiens) and she welcomes comments in French, Italian, and English. And check out her header's the mosaic floors in this same Murano church (the best floors of all, even better than the ones in San Marco, in my opinion). She has some other photos of the church floor on her blog here.

This is such a beautiful church (love the Madonna mosaic on gold) and below the Madonna are the bones of the dragon that San Donato slayed.




To me, this church is the main reason to visit the island of Murano. The glass shops are fun, the glass museum is very interesting, but this church is magical. Opening hours are posted below. Here are a few vintage images of the church:


Continue reading "Dragon Bones" »

April 1, 2011

PhotoHunt: Closed


This week's theme is "Closed."

I took the first photo last year from the boat on the way to Torcello, an island in the Venetian lagoon with a couple of amazing ancient churches. When I saw the scaffolding around the bell tower, I knew that it was still closed and when I got there, the sign confirmed it.

Closed for Extraordinary Maintenance. Sounds dire, doesn't it?

The only time I've found this tower open was in 2003. The views of the lagoon from the top are fantastic but that was before I had a digital camera. I'd love to climb this tower again someday.

It was also closed when I went in 2008 (being repaired after a lightning strike), and I learned from this article that it re-opened briefly in 2009 before being closed again because of a "real and serious risk of collapse." This 12th century tower is so fragile that they've stopped ringing the bells.



And here's a late winter camellia bud...closed at the time but not for long.


You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here.

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend. Happy April!


April 12, 2011

Torcello Before and After

I don't know what the story is with this palazzo, but it sure looks spiffy now. The first photo was taken in 2008, the second in 2010. I love those red chimneys.



September 14, 2012

PhotoHunt: Glass

Venice has been famous for its glass industry for over a thousand years. In 1291, the Venetian Republic decided to move the glass factories to the island of Murano because of the risk of fire. Glass continues to be made and sold on Murano today.

Ss. Giuseppe e S. Teresa

This elegant small oratory is SS. Giuseppe e Teresa, dedicated to saints Joseph and Teresa. It's nestled in the middle of a former convent founded on Murano in 1736. The convent was suppressed and closed in the early 19th century and later became a hospice for the widows and unmarried daughters of Murano's glass-makers (Ospizio Briati, founded by master glass-maker, Giuseppe Briati).

Ss. Giuseppe e S. Teresa

In the mid-19th century when Murano's most famous church was closed for restoration, this little chapel served as the island's parish church until Santa Maria e San Donato reopened.

Ss. Giuseppe e S. Teresa

The former religious complex is now city property. A few years ago, there was some discussion about turning the complex into a hotel, but there was much opposition to that plan, and then the city decided to restore the property so that it can be used as a home for disabled citizens. You can see photos of the cloisters and the interior of SS. Giuseppe e Teresa here.

Ss. Giuseppe e S. Teresa

Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend.

See a list of upcoming Saturday Photo Hunting themes on Gattina's website here.

November 15, 2012

San Pietro Martire

San Pietro Martire

Many people visit Murano to shop for glass, but there are a couple of churches on the island that are well worth a visit. One is the Basilica di SS. Maria e Donato and the other is this church (these are the two remaining parish churches on Murano). Like Venice, Murano is a cluster of islands with its own Grand Canal of sorts; it's larger than you might think as you can see in this lagoon photo taken from the International Space Station.

San Pietro Martire was founded in 1348 and originally dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. For over four centuries it was the church of an adjacent Dominican monastery. The original church was destroyed by fire in 1474; it was quickly rebuilt and in 1511 was rededicated to a 13th century Dominican priest/saint from Verona, always called St. Peter Martyr to distinguish him from the more famous St. Peter the apostle and first pope. That second church is the church we see today which is a large brick structure with both late Gothic and early Renaissance elements. The church has a wooden ceiling inside and of course, elegant Murano glass chandeliers which are a nice contrast to the old wood and the folk art frescoes above the arches.

San Pietro Martire

The monastery was largely demolished in 1840, but you can see remains of the cloisters in the Corte de la Chiesa behind the church, where there's also a vera da pozzo that dates to 1348 when the place was founded. There was a locked gate the day I was there; I would have liked to have gotten a closer look at that well-head.

San Pietro Martire

The campanile was built in 1498-1502 and is visible from many parts of Murano. Looks like it tilts a little bit.

San Pietro Martire

Murano wasn’t immune to the suppression and destruction of churches that happened in the 19th century after the fall of the Venetian Republic. At one time there were at least 18 churches on this island, but today there are only three active churches plus a couple of oratories.

San Pietro Martire and its monastery were closed in 1808, and the church was stripped of its art. But amazingly, the church reopened very quickly, in 1813, and was redecorated with some of the best art from other suppressed and destroyed churches on Murano. So today, you can see works by Tintoretto (Baptism of Christ), Veronese (two small paintings, one of St. Jerome and one of St. Agatha), and Giovanni Bellini.

San Pietro Martire

The two paintings by Bellini are the Virgin in Glory with Eight Saints (1510-1515) and The Barbarigo Altarpiece (1488), commissioned by Doge Agostino Barbarigo who can be seen kneeling in front of the Madonna in the painting. At one time this painting was in the doge’s apartment, but he bequeathed to the Murano convent, Santa Maria degli Angeli, and it ended up in San Pietro Martire.

Also worth seeking out if you’re a fan of musician angels like I am is the Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints by Giovanni Agostino da Lodi. The Madonna is lovely and the little angels adorable.

And check out the 17th century carvings by Pietro Morando in the sacristy, described by EV Lucas in A Wanderer in Venice:

“It is an odd room, with carvings all around it in which sacred and profane subjects are most curiously mingled: here John the Baptist in the chief scenes of his life, even to imprisonment in a wooden cage…and there Nero, Prometheus, Bacchus, and Seneca without a nose.” See a photo of one of these carvings on Yvonne’s blog.

San Pietro Martire

One of the most interesting attractions in this church is its ancient icon of the Madonna (photo below). I know nothing about her, but the residents of Murano pop into this church often, light a candle and say a prayer in front of her, and then leave without looking at any of the church’s more famous art. She’s in the chapel to the right of the high altar.

San Pietro Martire

Continue reading "San Pietro Martire" »

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Churches in Venice in the The Islands category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Santa Croce is the previous category.

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