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.