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Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta

Venice's First Cathedral

Interior of basilica

More than St Mark’s, or any other Venetian building, Santa Maria Assunta, the city's first cathedral on the island of Torcello shows the difficult balance between Byzantine and Italian styles that was sought in local architecture on the threshold of the Middle Ages.

Begun in 639 AD, the church assumed its current form in the early 11th-century: a typical Latin three-aisled basilica, more Italian than Greek. Details as the blind arcading on the façade and apses and the massive, square campanile, a prototype for many later ones in Venice, suggest that it is the work of Lombard masons, who travelled throughout Italy in the Middle Ages.

Nevertheless, there are some unusual features: stone shutters on stone hinges over the side windows, and a baptistry set squarely in front of the main portal – only the foundations of which survive today.

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Veneto-Byzantine Art: the ‘Proto-Renaissance’



Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by PD Art, seier+seier