The Isle of the Dead

Since the 1800s, Venetians haven’t been allowed to bury their dead in Venice.

Instead, they come out to Isola di San Michele — two islands joined together to form a floating cemetery.

The first thing you see as you arrive

Is one of Venice’s first Renaissance churches.

(I took the photo through the ferry window.)

Isola

You can find graceful courtyards

And hidden-away sunny spots

Full of graves.

Pretty courtyard

The rich families could afford

To honour their sleeping beauties in marble.

Sleeping beauty copy

Even the more humble resting places

Are taken care of with love.

Graves

There are crosses as far as the eye can see —

A sobering reminder of what awaits us all.

Crosses

The cemetery island is the burial place of many famous people,

Including Ezra Pound, Doppler, Stravinsky and Diaghilev.

Our visit there was both life-affirming and moving.

Diaghilev

 

For those of you who want to know what happens when the cemetery gets ‘full’: the bodies are allowed to lie here for about 12 years, and then they are taken back to Venice and kept in an ossarium to make room for more burials.

For more histories, please visit: Our World.

 

 

106 responses

  1. Very interesting – you have taught me something new and so saved my day 🙂

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 15:27

  2. It’s so beautiful…. love that this is a floating cemetery!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 15:28

  3. It’s lovely!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 15:28

  4. I’ve learned something new about Venice. Though I’ve visited this city I never heard of the floating cemeteries. This site is more beautiful than most cemeteries and certainly extraordinarily well cared for. Thank you!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 16:06

  5. Don

    Very moving images Fiona – thank you.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 16:21

  6. This is very moving and the one place I regret that we did not see when visiting Venice. It did not occur to me to wonder at the time about burials in such a watery environment. But what I see here in your pictures makes perfect sense and looks otherworldly and beautiful.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 16:24

    • Yes, and then the bones go back to Venice after about 12 years to be kept in an ossarium.

      Lady Fi wrote: > >

      Like

      November 3, 2014 at 16:48

  7. wow. just wow.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 16:35

  8. Very beautiful and moving…

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 16:36

  9. Very interesting. I did not know this –so I learned something today. What happens when that area is FULL???? Guess they will have to find another place!!! Thanks for this post. VERY interesting.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 16:37

    • Well, the bodies only lie in the graves for about 12 years and then the bones are taken back to Venice and put in an ossarium.

      Lady Fi wrote: > >

      Like

      November 3, 2014 at 16:43

  10. Ron

    Fiona, not only are these photographs breathtakingly beautiful, but also moving. I love visiting cemeteries because I actually find them very peaceful; therefore I would have really enjoyed this.

    I especially love the photograph of the girl standing in the doorway.

    Thank you for sharing. Such an interesting post!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 16:51

    • Thank you. I love that photo too – the girl in the photo is my daughter. 🙂

      Lady Fi wrote: > >

      Like

      November 3, 2014 at 17:08

  11. Such wonderful lighting in that first shot and cemeteries are always so thought provoking… so many people who have gone before us…

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 16:56

  12. Beautiful scenes – it’s the one place in Italy that I didn’t visit years ago and wished I had. It’s on my bucket list.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 17:10

  13. Nicely done Fi/

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 17:21

  14. Wow, what gorgeos photos with the light… and I have never seen before such a beautiful cemetery!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 17:24

  15. Venice must heaven for a talented photographer like you. The cemetery is beautiful, your photos are stunning, and once again, I learned something new on the blogs.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 17:42

  16. So wonderfully interesting!!! In Aruba, being an island, they bury their dead “above” ground which I found so intriguing when there…:)JP

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 17:56

  17. Touching and beautiful shots. My favorite is the second one with the girl looking outward (your daughter?).

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 18:06

    • Yes, that’s my daughter.

      Lady Fi wrote: > >

      Like

      November 3, 2014 at 18:13

  18. That is amazing and I, too, have once again learned something new! Such a terrific, fascinating post for the day — as always!! And such terrific captures of an incredibly lovely place! Thanks for sharing!!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 18:08

  19. Impressive progress and your photos emphasis! No matter how, the love is only left behind.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 18:12

  20. I also like the photo with your daughter, well done.
    Thank you for taking us with you on your journey.
    Carla

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 18:58

  21. Fantastic photos!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 19:23

  22. so beautiful. being from Portugal, i have always admired european cemeteries. although i think i would like to be cremated instead….

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 19:30

  23. This is very fascinating. I wonder what they do with the tombstones when the remains go to the ossarium?

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 19:39

  24. This is fascinating. To be moved after 12 years to make room for the newly dead makes me smile a bit. That concept has never entered my mind! The photo of you daughter looking out over the graves is very poignant.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 20:00

  25. What an interesting place.Beautiful shots and compositions, as always!=)

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 21:00

  26. A beautiful place. I always find peace in graveyards. Particularly the old ones…

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 21:13

  27. interesting, sombre topic!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 21:19

  28. It looks very serene and beautiful there, although crowded with graves by necessity! I also enjoy visiting old cemteries wherever I travel if I ahve the opportunity. They are l=always very interesting and peaceful.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 21:21

  29. Definitely my new thing to learn today. Assume because of all the water, where would they put a cemetery. Fascinating information. And lots to ponder over!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 21:37

    • Originally, they were no longer allowed to bury people under the paving stones in Venice because of the plague and risk of infection.

      Lady Fi wrote: > >

      Like

      November 4, 2014 at 05:54

  30. Very interesting, I don ‘have never imagined it to Venice !! thank you

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 21:56

  31. I guess with thousands of people dying over 1000 years, they would run out of room. I saw a similar cemetery while visiting Cinque Terra. A stint for a few years, then you’re moved. So much for resting in peace! I found the photos, epithets and mementoes touching and like you said, a reminder where we are all headed.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 22:23

  32. Dear LadyFi, I did know about the island burial spot for Venice. That’s because I’ve read all of Donna Leon’s mysteries. She has lived in Venice for many years and her award-wiinning mysteries are about a detective there and his family. Through the series of about 23 books, we watch the children grow and we watch Venice change and deal with Italian politics. The books are fascinating and if you haven’t read them, you might find them of great interest now that you’ve been to Venice and would recognize the places Leon writes about. Peace.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 22:30

  33. nocolebolo


    I didn’t go to that place. It’s a pity because as far I remember, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities on the world.
    You have posted great photos

    ·many hugs

    · CR · & · LMA ·

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 22:33

  34. It is a beautiful place! Just a shame the buried remains have to be removed later.. Lovely images. Have a happy week!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 23:08

  35. B E A U T I F U L. WOW. xx

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 23:10

  36. Seldom have the dead be made so beautiful.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 23:11

  37. Yes, indeed, wonderful pictures, I like that lady asleep for eternity!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 23:11

  38. I love your Zen doggie best, but Venice is glorious. I do enjoy visiting cemeteries. Bizarre, perhaps, but I always believe:
    “To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die!”
    I am surprised they move the bodies, though. Rather upetting!

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 23:22

  39. Fascinating! I never made it to the cemetery when I was there. You photos are hauntingly beautiful.

    Like

    November 3, 2014 at 23:23

  40. Pat

    A somberly beautiful place. I love the photo of your daughter looking out the archway..

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 01:23

  41. Rachael@safari254

    floating cemetery … how interesting. Lovely shots as usual.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 01:46

  42. southwestarkie

    Very beautiful place and fascinating that the whole island is a cemetery.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 02:04

  43. The light is beautiful. I hope you are enjoying your trip. 🙂

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 02:17

  44. Wonderful photos! Interesting that the Venetians aren’t allowed to bury their dead in Venice and that they are buried on islands. I learn a lot of interesting things on your posts.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 02:50

  45. how very interesting….did not know that about the idle of the dead…and would be interesting to walk around and see the graves…we used to have a graveyard in the backyard…and so i grew up around the dead….

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 02:53

  46. amazing place, thanks for sharing.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 03:20

  47. did NOT know. You have widened my world. Thanks

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 04:18

  48. They give me a visceral reaction. So full of life, magic and story.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 05:39

  49. That is so interesting! Thank you for going there and sharing it with us – and teaching us!

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 05:39

  50. I went to Venice but missed it! Thanks for taking me there, Lady fi!

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 06:17

  51. cosmos

    This post reminds me of the picture “the isle of the dead” by Arnold Bocklin. The second last shot is beautiful!

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 08:36

  52. I love cemetry photos, the flowers, the statues, the words… they all make it a very different experience. Gorgeous captures as always 🙂

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 09:29

  53. Uwe

    Wonderful, marvelous place – and great photographs about it!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Regards from Germany, Uwe

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 10:24

  54. very interesting!

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 10:41

  55. Beautiful – there are so many lovely things to see in Venice!

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 11:15

  56. Very interesting !

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 11:57

  57. Wow between you and George & Mrs Clooney I now want to visit Venice… it is time 🙂
    Great post.
    Wren x

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 12:06

  58. Wow.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 12:44

  59. The Isle of the Dead is new to me, and very interesting. Your photos are marvelous.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 15:27

  60. Beautiful.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 15:28

  61. What an interesting place to visit and reflect. Your photos certainly captured the spirits of the place and I too would have chosen to visit there. Cemeteries creep some people out but I find them very spiritual (no pun intended).

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 15:44

  62. How interesting, I love to learn something everyday. And the photos….stunning.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 16:24

  63. That’s really interesting. Beautiful pictures too!

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 16:44

  64. So beautiful and very moving photos…

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 16:45

  65. Don

    A very interesting series of pictures. I also enjoyed the remarkable background of this burial place and their process.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 16:51

  66. Peaceful, although crowded.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 17:40

  67. Beautiful and interesting images of the place.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 18:34

  68. What a wonderful trip you are having. I am touched by all the flowers left at the graves.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 18:38

  69. nicely documented 🙂

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 19:01

  70. such a beautiful place!! that first image is stunning and a lil what the heck, how do building survive surrounded by water. the last image, with the ballet slippers was very moving!!!!

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 19:07

  71. daryledelstein

    its an amazing place .. your photos are superb

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 19:14

  72. Very informative post and large wonderful photos!

    Happy Week to you!
    artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 19:19

  73. That’s interesting how the dead may stay in the cemetery for 12 years and then back to Venice. I wonder how they decided on 12 years. And the idea of a floating cemetery, chilling.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 19:48

  74. Pat

    I had no idea! That is very interesting.
    It’s a beautiful place and you took some great photos there.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 20:50

  75. So interesting! Venice is such a beautiful place to visit.

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 21:39

  76. Jim

    So moving and beautiful at the same time, Fiona. The photos captured are stunning!

    Like

    November 4, 2014 at 23:53

  77. Kaya

    Welcome back! These are amazing photos and I will be happy to follow your every step of your adventures!

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 00:11

  78. Al

    What an amazing place – I’ve not seen it before.

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 01:41

  79. Very interesting but also sounds like it is perhaps very costly, especially with having to move the remains later on.

    Lindy

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 03:21

  80. What a wonderful place this must be!

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 03:44

  81. Very interesting info, and very good photo’s, never saw this before.

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 07:46

  82. A sobering thought – but I’ve always had a fascination with cemeteries. This one is beautiful and I did not know about this. Love the flowers tucked into the reclining loved one’s arms.

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 14:16

  83. I enjoyed very much your beautiful photos and interesting story. My favorite photo is the first one. Thanks Fiona, have a lovely week!

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 18:02

  84. Hmmm. It has never before occurred to me that cemeteries would be a problem in Venice. BUT of course!

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 18:32

  85. The church is beautiful! So many graves!!! I suppose they have left the famous people in the cemetery, rather than moving them to the ossuary…

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 19:51

  86. Oh, I love this post! One day when I go back to Venice I’ll definitely visit this island. I am such a coffin kid – I love cemeteries!

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 21:00

  87. “A sobering reminder of what awaits us all”…. lovely said! I love all images, details… so sensitive post! A great week, suuny autumn to you!

    Like

    November 5, 2014 at 22:43

  88. that´s a beautiful place 🙂

    Like

    November 6, 2014 at 00:17

  89. Stunning images…of a beautiful city. My favourite is the first:)

    Like

    November 6, 2014 at 02:38

  90. impressionnant ces photos d’après un cimetière

    Like

    November 6, 2014 at 09:08

  91. fascinating yet moving images…

    Like

    November 6, 2014 at 10:12

  92. This is awfully interesting!
    i really didn’t realize that such a thing as a floating cemetry existed!
    Wil, ABCW Team.

    Like

    November 6, 2014 at 16:51

  93. How interesting. This is one of the reasons why I come to your blog. It’s a learning space for me. 🙂

    Greetings from London.

    Like

    November 6, 2014 at 22:53

  94. What a beautiful and sobering place. How sad though to be allowed to rest in peace for such a short time. I wonder what happens to the monuments when they have been moved?

    Like

    November 7, 2014 at 08:55

  95. miyahde

    Oh, I learned something today and very touching♪ I LOVE the second picture your daughter in there as well, Fiona.
    I’m away from PC for more than a week, I won’t be able to post next week, my friend.
    Sending Lots of Love and Hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

    Like

    November 7, 2014 at 10:11

    • miyahde

      OMG; my comment above hit 100th here, I feel like great time waiting for me in Kanto-area ‘memorial service and litte trip’ for about 10 days(*^_^*)

      Like

      November 7, 2014 at 10:15

  96. You are presenting a wonderful serie of images again, LadyFi, in a way your hans and eye are recognizable in a few of the photos, I think.
    Just wondering … have you ever see the movie “Don’t look now” with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie …? If not, I think you should. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this beauty again and enjoy your weekend.

    Like

    November 7, 2014 at 14:31

  97. Sorry, you have no translation on your blog so I always text between the pictures by copying. I am very impressed by these pictures of the floating cemetery and the graves that I saw there.

    Like

    November 7, 2014 at 20:42

  98. 12 years and then to the bone container or urn hardly seems long enough. I wonder if they have a ceremony when the remains are moved? It is a beautiful place, but I find it a bit haunting that the bodies are not at rest permanently 😦

    Like

    November 9, 2014 at 04:26

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