In 1591, the Bishop of Torcello, Antonio Grimani, wrote in his report of the pastoral visit to Cavallino that there was a “well preserved” chapel, probably located not far from the building now known as the ancient church of Santa Maria Elisabetta.
In 1698, Bishop Marco Giustiniani visited the small church dedicated to Santa Maria Elisabetta, which was attended by a small number of people.
Giovanni Matteo Alberti, who was a doctor of German origin living in Venice and had owned the island since 1686, wrote to the Bishop of Torcello stating that Cavallino was “an unhappy desert, due to both the unhealthy quality of the air and the sterile, swampy and useless land”. And yet it was Alberti himself who, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, reclaimed the land, brought in numerous settlers and convinced the Bishop to establish an autonomous parish there.
The construction of the church and subsequent restorations
For almost all of the eighteenth century the island remained in the hands of the Druyvesteyn family, represented in Venice by the Dutch consul, Giacomo Fèitama. The consul spent long periods in Cavallino and contributed to the construction of the new church between 1744 and 1751, while the bell tower was finished a few years later. [photo 1].
In 1916, the building was modified and a new facade with neoclassical concrete mouldings was added to the old facade. [photo 2] Moreover, the presbytery was enlarged towards the east in order to acquire space for the choir. In 1985-88, however, the original structure was restored by rebuilding the old back wall of the presbytery with the high altar leaning against it. [photo 3]. Fundamental was the economic support of Angelo Macola (1909-1995), one of the great pioneers of open air tourism in Cavallino, now buried at the foot of the presbytery.
The bell tower
The bell tower was rebuilt from the foundations in 1906, replacing the three iron bells cast in 1890. The belfry and the spire gradually deteriorated until 1980, when the spire was demolished because it was unsafe. In 1986, after a complete restoration of the belfry, the bells rang out again after twenty-five years of silence.
The works of art
The central altar is the most antique and was probably partially recovered from a church near Torcello that was demolished over the first three decades of the nineteenth century. The side altars also belong to that period.
On the central altar, there is the altarpiece “The visit of Mary to Saint Elisabeth” [photo 4] traditionally attributed to the school of Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734), even though the figures of the Virgin, of Saint Elisabeth and of the angels were repainted at the turn of the nineteenth century. According to the census of the cultural assets of the Italian Catholic Church (https://beweb.chiesacattolica.it), the painting is attributed to Antonio Balestra (1666-1740).
On the left wall of the presbytery there is the painting entitled Regina Pacis, by Duilio Korompay (1876-1952),which arrived in the parish in 1921 [photo 5].
In the aisle, the right side altar is embellished by The Dream of Joseph (or Joseph and the Angel) [photo 6] attributed, from the beginning of the 20th century, to the school of Pietro Vecchia (1603-78)which has been confirmed in the above mentioned census of cultural assets: (https://beweb.chiesacattolica.it).
On the left wall of the aisle, in the niche of the altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, there is a recently carved wooden statue of Mary.
The organ is the work of Giacomo Bazzani, a Venetian craftsman, art companion of Callido, Nachini and De Lorenzo, all active organ builders in Venice at the end of the nineteenth century. During the First World War it was seriously damaged and then restored. Its present appearance is due to a further restoration in 1991.