Frescoes in Torcello

Frescoes in Torcello

A real surprise for the archaeologists led by Diego Calaon of the University of Venice who are restoring the roof of the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Torcello. The newly discovered frescoes date back to the 9th century, the oldest ever discovered in Venice, and require us to rethink once again the fascinating tangle of Venice’s origins.

The frescoes were identified during the conservation work on the central apse and the Diaconic chapel. Faded but clearly legible, they left the insiders speechless. A panel shows the image of the Virgin Mary seated on a throne, accompanied by a handmaid, who could hypothesize the scene of the Annunciation. On the opposite side, the paintings tell the life of St. Martin.

Their style clearly refers to Europe rather than to the Byzantium of the time and the building that is emerging rather than having artistic ties with the Orient seems to adhere more to Carolingian political-cultural references. Venice of its origins was, like all the mainland at the time, subject to the Carolingians. Politically and culturally, Venice was born Carolingian and it was precisely starting from Torcello that was one of the first places where, after the decline of the Roman Empire, those who previously lived on the mainland settled. In particular, the people of Altino, a Roman city on the edge of the lagoon: as their port became swampy, they moved more and more towards the center of the lagoon to trade. First to Torcello and then to Venice. This is why Torcello is important to really understand how Venice was born.

These newly discovered frescoes are being studied and, since the work in the basilica is not finished, other surprises cannot be ruled out.

Location: Torcello, Venice