Santa Maria Assunta di Torcello is a small but noteworthy church. It is one of the most ancient Venice churches. To see it, travel to Torcello island and prepare for an authentic and inspiring experience.
Getting to the church
If you check our Venice map, you’ll see that Santa Maria Assunta is on the island. It takes about an hour to get there by vaporetto. Start at Fondamenta Nuove and take Line 12 to Burano, a nearby island. From there, take Line 9, and in about 5 minutes, you’ll arrive at Torcello. It’s best to travel during the daytime so you can enjoy the ride and indulge in the magnificence of the church.
History & architecture
Santa Maria Assunta di Torcello, founded in 639, is a glorious site full of history. The inscription, found in the church, is the oldest known document in all Venetian history. It is a small church that takes about half an hour to explore. But both its exterior and interior will take you back in time. Enjoy the Late Paleochristian architecture as well as the earliest mosaics in the area. Part of the facade has a mosaic depicting the Universal Judgement.
The original building was the work of Mauritius, but almost none of it survived until today. Some parts of the original structure can be seen in the central apse wall and the facade. There were a few restorations, one in 864 and the final one in 1008. Orso Orseolo, the son of Pietro Orseolo II, the Doge of Venice, did the latest restoration. Today, the charming facade has 12 semi-columns connected by the arches. You also will admire a marble portal built in 1000 and the 13th-century marble slabs with carvings from St Mark’s Basilica. The campanile, attached to the church, dates back to the 11th century.
The interior of Santa Maria Assunta di Torcello is striking. There is a single nave with two aisles and a panel with thirteen iconostasis paintings. Inside this splendid church, you’ll find mosaics dating back to the late 11th century. The fascinating one is the Madonna with Child, done by a team of Byzantine mosaicists. Yet, people also come to see other mosaics like the Crucifixion, the Harrowing of Hell, and The Last Judgment. These mosaics have been neglected for years and restored with help from organizations like Save Venice, Venice in Peril, and others. In addition, the church boasts the throne of the bishops of Altino, a tomb of St. Heliodorus, and relics of Saint Cecilia.
Things to do in the area
To get a better feel of Venetian history, you should explore some nearby attractions. We at veniceXplorer always recommend taking your time to appreciate the places you visit. Next to the church are Museo Provinciale di Torcello and the Church of Santa Fosca. On your way back to the waterbus stop, don’t forget to take a picture at Ponte del Diavolo or the Devil’s Bridge. You might also check out Santa Maria Assunta, found in the city and known as I Gesuiti.