One of the many reasons why Caorle is alive all year round is its interesting historical and religious heritage.
Anyone who has visited Caorle at least once cannot fail to be fascinated by Piazza Vescovado with its cathedral dedicated to St Stephen and its cylindrical bell tower, the symbol of the town. The church dates back to 1038 and was built on the ruins of an earlier basilica dating back to the 6th or 6th century AD. The grandeur of the Cathedral, built in Romanesque style, is symptomatic of the ‘golden age’ that ancient Caorle experienced in the 11th and 12th centuries. With its three naves, separated by two rows of columns, and its three apses (the main one dedicated to the liturgy, the other two to the resting place of the Blessed Sacrament and to the baptismal font), the Cathedral of Caorle offers an architectural style typical of medieval churches. Think, for example, of the attention to construction details: of the three apses, only the central one protrudes outside the structure, while the two side apses are included; this dislocation of volumes, in addition to the inclination of the axis of the main apse with respect to that of the nave, are intended to recall the head of Jesus Christ who, at the moment of his death on the cross, bowed to one side. This is just one of the many mysteries of St Stephen’s Cathedral: we invite you to discover the others by visiting it in person.
Just a stone’s throw from the side entrance to the cathedral stands the majestic Caorle bell tower: it is unique among all the cylindrical towers dating back to the Middle Ages for its cylindrical shape and the simultaneous presence of a conical spire. The 44-metre-high structure is accessible thanks to a recent restoration: volunteers from the Santo Stefano parish offer a guided tour service (multilingual) during the summer that will allow you to almost reach the top of the structure and enjoy a breathtaking view of the city and the seafront.
Also open to visitors is the small but interesting Caorle Cathedral Museum, housed in the adjoining rooms of the church, with access from the nearby rectory. The rooms contain artefacts dating back to the early Christian era recovered from the church that stood where the cathedral is now built; there are also reliquaries, vestments and sacred robes and some objects made by Venetian goldsmiths. Among the most valuable works are the Tables of the Apostles, attributed to the school of Paolo Veneziano and a silver capitular cross dating back to 1534. Finally, one room houses the relics of the Holy Pope John XXIII: two citizens of Caorle, Guido and Giampaolo Gusso, who were personal attendants to the pontiff, have brought back to their city of origin various items used by the “good Pope”.
Another religious building of interest, one of the dearest to the citizens of Caorle for the deep Marian devotion that distinguishes them, is the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Angelo. This small church overlooking the sea was built in June 1751 on the remains of an old church, now worn down by time and the force of the sea. Inside this “jewel” is the statue of the Madonna dell’Angelo, an effigy to which the fishermen of Caorle would turn before a fishing trip at sea or in the lagoon. There are ancient stories of miracles and devotion that accompany the cult of the Madonna dell’Angelo and that still reverberate today: every five years in September, to celebrate an ancient vow, there is the traditional procession at sea with a procession of fishing boats, while every year, on the second weekend in July, Caorle celebrates the annual feast of the Madonna dell’Angelo with two processions greeted by the now traditional and spectacular “burning of the bell tower” of the Cathedral with fireworks.
Also in Caorle, it is worth visiting the small church of Madonna del Rosario di Pompei, which dates back to the end of the 19th century and was rebuilt in the 1950s because it was heavily damaged during the Second World War.
Finally, a few kilometres from Caorle, in the hamlet of Ottava Presa, there is a small chapel dedicated to the Madonna of Lourdes: the entire interior of the tiny church has recently been frescoed with biblical images. Surprise and enchantment await those who visit this small place.