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Photograph of the week: Church of the Blessed Virgin of the Angel in Caorle, Italy

Where the rocks end and the Levante beach begins, on a cliff wedged into the Adriatic sea, you will find the Church of the Blessed Virgin of the Angel. For centuries this has been a pilgrimage destination for residents of Caorle, Italy, a place to worship and find peace. This is increasingly the case too for religious people from all over the world, who come to pay their respects and prove their devotion to the Virgin Mary. It is also, undoubtedly, a picturesque little spot, with an enchanting story to match. Even for those in no way religiously inclined, it is worth putting on an Italian itinerary. Legend has it that the Church was built by peasants fleeing from the barbarians who ravaged Concordia Sagittaria back in the 9th century. They dedicated the church to Archangel Michael. Fast forward a few centuries, and this tiny church would gain a new patron saint: Virgin Mary. They say that she was found by a group of fishermen who, upon seeing a strange light far out at sea, set out to investigate. They discovered a wooden statue of Mary with Child, floating upon the waves, in spite of being mounted on a heavy marble pedestal. After towing her inland, the fishermen managed to carry the statue ashore, but then could move her no further. Try as they might, strong men could not budge the statue. Finally, inexplicably, a group of young children was able to carry her to the Cathedral in town. Even more inexplicably, the following day found the statue back in the little church by the sea, and there she remains. Since that day, the church has been named the Church of the Blessed Virgin. You can visit the church every day during daylight hours in winter months. In summer, it is open from the early morning until 11 pm. Inside you will find several works of art: one of the oldest being an Archangel Michael in high relief. Done by Andrea Dell’Aquila, dating back to 1595, it embellishes the central wall of the High Chapel. Figures of Venetian patriarchs can also be seen painted on walls, as well as a fresco depicting the Virgin emerging from the sea accompanied by the four Evangelists (completed in 1948 by Gino Filippi di Portogruaro). Back outside, the church is located close to Spiaggia di Levante (the east beach of Caorle), making this a great spot for sun-worshippers too. Bonus tip: if you plan well, you can experience the “Procession of Madonna dell’Angelo”. Every five years, the statue is loaded onto a caorlina, a traditional rowing boat of the Venetian lagoon, and taken back to where she came from. The procession starts from the Fishing Harbour, traverses the internal stream and the Canale dell’Orologio, then continues along the sea before being returned to its sanctuary in the church. She is followed by local Caorle fishermen who decorate their boats, or ‘bragozzi’, for the occasion. Held on the second Sunday of September, the next procession will take place in 2020. If you have a really special photograph you would like to share with A Luxury Travel Blog‘s readers, please contact us.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. So it is true then, every picture tells a story. There is also that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Though in the case of Caorle the words very much add to the spirit of the picture.

  2. This photograph poses the photographer’s age old dilemma: Would it have been a better picture if it had been populated with worshippers?

    Obviously, it would have been difficult to get people and sunset at the same time but there would be other times of day with dramatic lighting too.

    I’m getting an idea for two wrinkled widows, dressed in mourning black, walking away from the church and towards the camera, after prayers mourning the loss of their husbands.

    It’s a very different picture to the one taken but I always like to try to think out of the box when I see a photograph.

    1. I’m glad that someone else thinks like me. I take a load of photos for our business’ social media and I never really switch off though I’ve got no formal photography training. I spend far too much time imagining the world through a camera’s viewfinder. I’m always looking for that great shot that might go viral.

  3. I’ve seen the picture and now I want to go there, not that I have a clue as to where Caorle is in Italy – nor what else there might be to enjoy around that area. It makes you realise how powerful visual images are for marketing travel destinations.

  4. I’m not sure that I’ve got the patience to wait for the “Procession of Madonna dell’Angelo”. If you’re going primarily to take some pictures it would be frustrating if the light were poor or that it was raining. I know that professional photographers will argue that you can create a fantastic moody image from bad weather but I am just an enthusiastic amateur lacking the patience to wait another 5 years to get my shot.

  5. What a stunning destination for pilgrimage and to pay respects to the Virgin Mary. It’s fascinating to read that fishermen found the wooden statue but only a group of children were able to carry it back to the cathedral. How did it then get to the Church? I suppose this is a point of possible divine intervention. The artwork itself would be wonderful to see, with or without religious inclination to visit the Church of the Blessed Virgin for pilgrimage. I imagine there will be a lot of people flocking to the Fishing Harbour next year for the procession. It would be interesting to know how many do attend that, thousands I would imagine.

  6. I love how quiet that looks. Perfect for contemplation on life and other things. I’m not sure how busy it gets on other times of the day, but having something this serene can certainly help calm the mind and soul. I wouldn’t mind having some more time alone — outside! I’m kind of getting tired of the walls of my house and our backyard (still on mildly restrictive lockdown).

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