Torcello: Mother of Venice

View from the campanile, Torcello
Visiting the almost deserted island today, it is hard to imagine that at its height, in the fifteenth century, Torcello boasted a population in the region of 20,000 people. Nowadays, it has 12 residents. 

In the fifth century, Torcello was the destination for the very first wave of refugees from the mainland. In 638 it became the seat of the bishop of Altinum and in the following year its cathedral (the oldest building in the entire lagoon) was founded. In time, the lagoon around Torcello became a malarial swamp, heralding the end of Torcello's heyday. Its residents debunked to Murano, Burano and Venice. 

John Ruskin observed poignantly, "Mother and daughter, you behold them both in their widowhood – Torcello and Venice".

The island's cathedral, which was largely rebuilt in 1008, is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. As today is the Festa dell'Assunta (Feast of the Assumption), it hosted a concert in celebration. And I was fortunate enough to be a member of the audience. 

I can never visit Torcello without wanting to climb the campanile. As I had some time to spare before the concert began, I hauled my ancient bones up to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the lagoon. 


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