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 thoughts on “The Isle of the Dead

  1. 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!

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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

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  4. 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!

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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!!

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  7. 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.

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  8. 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.

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  9. 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.

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  10. 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!

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  11. 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.

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  12. 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….

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  13. 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).

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  14. 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.

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  15. 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.

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  16. 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*

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    1. 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(*^_^*)

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  17. 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.

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  18. 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.

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  19. 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 😦

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