Adjacent to the cathedral Santa Maria Assunta is a small church called Santa Fosca (floor plan, vertical elevation and cross section). This little church is a mausoleum specifically built for Saint Fosca. A martyr who was brought to the island in 1011, or at least his bones were. The church is not just a martyrium, but was also used for certain ceremonies and of course to worship the relics.
Only limited numbers of believers ever met in Santa Fosca, so a small central-plan church was the most suitable construction type. The Roman model was probably copied from Santo Stefano. And yet, Santa Fosca shows Byzantine influences just like Galla Placida in Ravenna, which, just like this church, has a Greek Cross as its floor plan. The church is crowned by a round dome. A Greek cross with a dome is one of the most important characteristics of Byzantine architecture. The most famous example of which is the Hagia Sophia, built in the early 6th century. The domed Greek cross also became a dominant theme of Venetian architecture. The builders of Santa Fosca obviously also wanted a dome, but the construction was not all that strong, which is why they built a wooden dome that was raised on the outside: a safe and cheap solution.
The portico around Santa Fosca dates from the 12th century. In the portico, the Greek cross changes into an octagonal with five bays on each side and three on the diagonal sides. The portico’s alternation of round and polygonal columns is a nice variation. And the arches have been substantially lengthened compared to the interior of Santa Fosca. The portico has a clear vertical accent which directs the eye to the construction elements above. The whole appears to be a complicated mass of various construction elements with a climactic centre that nevertheless is in perfect harmony. This is a characteristic of 6th century Byzantine architecture that can also be found in Ravenna, for example in San Vitale.
We will take a walk around this little church. The exterior at the rear, the east side, near the apse consists of simple bricks, albeit richly decorated. The dogtooth pattern is often used in early Christian Veneto-Byzantine churches, although rarely on the outside as is the case with Santa Fosca. The combination of red brick and white marble was quite common and often used in Venetian architecture. San Marco looked like that in 11th century, prior to the large-scale decoration programme that lasted several centuries. Santa Fosca is an early and important example of Byzantine architecture in the lagoon.
Before we leave the island, we will climb to the top of the campanile from where you can enjoy a beautiful view.
The trip back from Torcello via the Canal Grande. The Canal Grande originally was a meandering river carving out a path in the marshy lagoon. It always was the most important connection and still is extremely busy today.