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  • 115,07 sq. km
  • 2 m a.s.l.
  • 8,691
Town Hall:
  • Piazza B. Marin, 4
  • 34073 - Aiello del Friuli (GO)
  • Barbana, Boscat, Fossalon, Primero

Inhabited in Roman times and probably functional to the port of Aquileia (the word gradus indicated a port of call), the place acquired greater importance in the 5th century, when, transformed into a fortress (castrum), it became the shelter of the Aquileia Archbishops during barbarian invasions. Since the early 7th century it was the seat of the Patriarchate, suppressed in 1451 in favour of Venice. Renown since the late 1800s as a seaside and marine treatment resort, Grado is also a remarkable artistic centre. It was thanks to the Aquileia Archbishops that the magnificent Early-Christian monuments were set as precious stones in the picturesque Città Vecchia (Old City), which follows the trapezoid area of the castrum keeping its road plan partly intact (Calle Lunga and Calle Porta Piccola correspond respectively  to the cardo and decumanus of the late-Roman citadel). The typically Venetian street names (campo, campiello, calle) are reminiscent of the largely disappeared defensive structures: Porta Grande, Porta Piccola, Porta Nova, Palazzo, Torre. The Ravenna-style imposing Duomo (Basilica of Sta. Eufemia) fronts onto the central Campo dei Patriarchi: it was consecrated in 579 by Patriarch Elias, who completed a pre-existing structure built on the site of a modest 4th-5th-century hall (tomb mosaic of Petrus and hexagonal baptismal font). In spite of the use of recycled materials (Roman columns and capitals), the three-nave interior is remarkable for the purity of lines and the elegance of the vast floor mosaic, full of votive inscriptions. Among the other works of art, behind the high altar the gilt silver altarpiece stands out, the superb work of Venetian masters (1372); the slender Romanesque-Gothic ambo (12th-14th centuries) harmoniously fuses both western and oriental elements. The presbytery was reconstructed with early-Byzantine pluteus fragments (the -hunter’s- pluteus on the right is remarkable). In the apse, a 14th-century fresco (Christ in glory among Saints and the Evangelists’ symbols) and two goldbackground paintings with Saints by an unknown German painter (early 16th century). Over a pillar is a spirelet with Crucifix and dedication to St. Ermacora by Patriarch Vitale (end of 9th century). Also the lower level adjacent halls show mosaic floors dating to Elias’s time (571-589), as witnessed by his monogram: the Trichora houses a rare Coptic table, sculptures and mosaic fragments; the Salutatorium, to the south, houses a cast of St. Mark’s Cathedra-shrine (the original is in Venice); the Mausoleum, where the tomb mosaic of Marciano, known as the exiled or wandering bishop, is (end of 6th century), houses a small capital with Elias’s monogram and a 16th-century wooden altar front of German school with Pietà and characters of the Passion. Here the Treasure is kept, containing precious jewellery: two Early- Christian silver capsellae (reliquaries), a Byzantine silver reliquary given by Emperor Eraclio around 630, and a medieval reliquary of Sts. Ermacora and Fortunato, as well as an Evangeliary Cover. On top of the tall latemedieval bell tower (42.60 m high) rises the so-called -Anzolo-, the bronze angel-shaped weather vane that has become the symbol of the city. Behind the Duomo is the Lapidary, with its hundreds of sculptures and epigraphs dating from the 1st century BC to the Middle Ages (particularly relevant is the lintel dedicated to St. Mark by Patriarch Giovanni II, 807-810). Roman findings are shown also in front of the 6th-century austere octagonal architecture of the Baptistery, whose accurately restored interior shows some parts of the original mosaic floor and a few fittings, such as the hexagonal font and the small altar carrying Bishop Probino’s monogram (569-571). Not far from the Baptistery, the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a most precious incunabulum of early-Christian architecture built between the 5th and 6th centuries. Inside it displays floor mosaics laid on two different levels, fittings (plutei, presbytery and Cathedra) as well as precious late medieval sculptures (fragments of two ciboria, datable to the first two decades of the 9th century). Not far from the church, a slab with lines in the Grado dialect marks the house where Biagio Marin was born (1891-1985), one of the greatest 20th-century Italian poets.   The foundations of another Early-Christian basilica (end of 4th centuryearly 6th century) preceded by an octagonal baptistery (whose plan is marked on the pavement), and mosaic fragments were brought to light in the large square in front of the Town Hall (popularly known as Corte). From here, a walk along the nearby Lungomare Nazario Sauro, built on the 19th-century Austrian dam, affords a splendid view of the Gulf of Trieste. Among various period buildings, the modern architecture of the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology (that is now at an advanced stage in mounting) stands out, where the hull and cargo of a Roman cargo ship of the 2nd century AD and other exhibits found in the lagoon will be displayed. The seaside walk connects the two main beaches in Grado, the western one (Costa Azzurra), a public, popular beach, and the eastern one (where an entry fee must be paid), the Beach par excellence, one of the most elegant and best equipped beaches on the Adriatic. Just behind the beach, in the green framework of the Parco delle Rose, there are marine thermal baths and the imposing Palazzo Regionale dei Congressi (1979), the venue of important congress and cultural events. In the magical natural frame of the lagoon, the Marian Sanctuary of Barbana, on the islet by the same name, is worth a visit. Rebuilt in the past century, though very old (6th century), the sanctuary houses several works of art and hundreds of touching votive offerings. On the first Sunday in July, the Sanctuary is the destination of a procession on boats (the Perdon) that has been taking place continuously since 1237.

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Images from Friuli Venezia Giulia