After the religious past and the glorious past of an important cultural center, the Island of San Michele is today known worldwide for its city cemetery; for this reason it is also called the Isle of the Dead.
It was once known to be "Cavana de Muran" as it offered refuge to boatmen bound for Murano.
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The origins of the island of San Michele, now commonly called the island of the Cemetery, can be traced back to the presence of the Camaldolese monks on the spot even though there are two versions currently accredited regarding their arrival on the spot.
An ancient legend tells that in 978, on the occasion of a pilgrimage to Venice, the Benedictine monk Romualdo di Sant'Apollinare, founder of the Camaldolese congregation, together with his own spiritual master Marino landed "sopra un paludo apreso Muran" (on a swamp near Murano) otherwise known as Cavana di Archangel Michael. From this fortuitous event, it is said that they decided to build a temporary hospitalization which later became definitive by the confreres of the Oratory of Saint Andrea.
According to history, however, it appears that the first religious stationing on the island took place in 1212 at the behest of the Serenissima government and in agreement with Pope Innocent III who validated the donation of the bishops of Torcello and San Pietro di Castello to open the area to a monastic and hermit life. The Camaldolese therefore built a monastic complex in 1221 while the church we know today was built in the fifteenth century by a young and then little known Mauro Codussi. The work of the Bergamo architect was so appreciated that, starting from the second half of the fifteenth century, the monastery became an important cultural center that attracted many men of culture among miniaturists, code transcribers, geographers and cosmographers, one on all Fra 'Mauro, the author of the well-known world map preserved in the Marciana National Library and considered one of the most important Venetian cartographic documents made in the historical transition period between the medieval world and the first exploratory journeys. Today the religious complex, after having undergone numerous changes, heavily accuses the troubled events of the nineteenth century that have also led to the complete disposal of the historic library whose volumes are now preserved in the Library of San Francesco della Vigna.
The intended use in Camposanto begins to take shape with the edict of Sant-Cloud of 1804 which imposed, for hygiene reasons, to withdraw the burial of the deceased outside the inhabited center. Until the arrival of Napoleon, in fact, the deceased Venetians were buried adjacent to the parish church to which they belong, as the nizioleti of fields and calli still remember; only benefactors and nobles could have the privilege of being buried in monumental sepulchres inside churches or cloisters.
With the Napoleonic decree of 12 June 1804, the Island of San Cristoforo della Pace was chosen, positioned in front of the New Foundations, as the most suitable place to entrust with the role of city cemetery; this decision involved the demolition of a pre-existing church and monastery. The monumental complex was entrusted to Gianantonio Selva whose drawings are now preserved in the Correr Museum Library; the final result, rather cold and impersonal, did not find the appreciation of the people.
It soon became clear, however, that the small space available for burials was not sufficient to contain all the bodies of the deceased therefore it was decided to expand it using the territorial extension of the Island of San Michele, which in the meantime in the meantime 1823 it was bought by the Municipality; the river that divided the two islands was buried and on 2 August 1839 there was the blessing of the patriarch. A new competition of ideas was announced that Annibale Forcellini from Treviso won; he defined the project showing numerous points in common with the Milan Cemetery and the works were completed in 1876.
The Camposanto shows a Greek cross plan inserted in a square, a red solid brick boundary wall in turn circumscribed by Istrian stone and a path that also includes the conventual area, whose monastery was used for a short period a political prison where Silvio Pellico and Pietro Maroncelli were also imprisoned.
The numerous tomb monuments are organized into sections cataloged according to Roman numerals or the letters of the alphabet, interspersed with large trees such as laurels, oaks, maples, magnolias, silver and Austrian pines, araucarias in addition to rose gardens and hedges. Countless famous people are buried in the cemetery including: the musician Luigi Nono, the historians Giulio Lorenzetti and Pompeo Molmenti, the writers Carlo and Gasparo Gozzi, the actor Cesco Baseggio, the playwrights Riccardo Selvatico and Giacinto Gallina, the painters Virgilio Guidi, Emilio Vedova and Mario De Luigi, the composers Ermanno Wolf Ferrari and Igor Stravinskij (in addition to the tombstone of Giacomo Manzù), the family of the second Venetian wife of actor Anthony Quinn, the painter-collector Italico Brass, the poets Josif A. Brodskij and Ezra L. Pound, the psychiatrist Franco Basaglia, the scientist Christian Doppler, the creator of the "Ballets russes" Sergej Diaghilev. The cloisters