San Michele, Venice

4.5
#6 of 16 in Nature in Venice
San Michele is an island in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It is associated with the sestiere of Cannaregio, from which it lies a short distance northeast.
Along with neighbouring San Cristoforo della Pace, the island was a popular place for local travellers and fishermen to land. Mauro Codussi's Chiesa di San Michele in Isola of 1469, the first Renaissance church in Venice, and a monastery lie on the island, which also served for a time as a prison.
San Cristoforo was selected to become a cemetery in 1807, designed by Gian Antonio Selva, when under French occupation it was decreed that burial on the mainland (or on the main Venetian islands) was unsanitary. The canal that separated the two islands was filled in during 1836, and subsequently the larger island became known as San Michele. Bodies were carried to the island on special funeral gondolas. Among those buried there are Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, Jean Schlumberger, Christian Doppler, Frederick Rolfe, Horatio Brown, Sergei Diaghilev, Ezra Pound, Luigi Nono, Catherine Bagration, Franco Basaglia, Paolo Cadorin, Zoran Mušič, Helenio Herrera, Emilio Vedova, and Salvador de Iturbide y Marzán. The cemetery is still in use today.
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  • The vaporetto is a very easy way to reach the cemetery island "San Michele," which lies between Venice and Murano, where you will find the cemetery of Venice of the same name. The island has a near-rectangular floor plan, with a length of 460 meters, a width of 390 meters and an area of 17.6 hectares and is surrounded all around with a red brick wall, so you can see it very well from afar. There is a church (the Renaissance church of San Michele in Isola, built in 1469 by Mauro Codussi), a chapel and countless different tombs such as Stravinsky and the famous families of Venice. But there are also areas where only church bearers and nuns, foreign residents, children, military etc. are buried. The plots are very well signposted and provide very good information on which areas to find. The island had to contend with lack of space, which is why the dead were first buried in normal graves, but after a few years they were exhumed again and stacked in tall blocks. You can also find areas where only urns can be found in high blocks. San Michele is part of the parish of San Canciano in the sestiere (city sixths) of Cannaregio, although it belongs to the sestiere Castello. On this island there is real silence and tranquility, you can also find some very old tombs with interesting inscriptions and names. The island of San Cristoforo della Pace, which was connected to San Michele during conversion to the cemetery, belonged to the monastery of the same name and access was only possible from the water side. In order to gain more space for burials, part of the neighbouring lagoon was poured up in 1837. The enlarged island of San Michele was surrounded by a tall brick wall along the straightened waterfront paths, one had the site poured up to make it flood-proof and straightened the area. The cemetery itself is laid out like a Greek cross, many cypresses, trees, bushes accompany the two main axes; The burial fields are separated by walls that contain the Columbariums-this island is truly unique in its location and in its conception and well worth a visit. If this review has been helpful to you, please activate the "Help Button"!
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  • San Michele is on the way to and/or from far more popular destinations in Venice. If one is interested in learning a bit about what makes Venice unique, a stop at the cemetery would be in order. There...  more »
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