Torcello is a quiet island at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon. It was settled and named in the seventh century by people from Altino , including the Bishop of Altino . They brought the relics of Saint Eliodorus , now the patron saint of the island.
Torcello rapidly grew in importance as a political and trading centre. In the tenth century, it had a population of about 10,000 people and was more powerful than Venice, but it then declined. It retained a Grand Council , like that of Venice, who were given the right to nominate a podesta from Venice to govern the island. The Lagoon around the island gradually became a swamp, and almost all the population left for Murano or Venice. It now has a population of around 60 people.
Today the island is known for the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta , founded in 639 and with much eleventh century Byzantine work, including mosaics, surviving. Other attractions include the eleventh and twelfth century Church of Santa Fosca and a museum housed in two fourteenth century palaces.