History and Myth

Image of Venice, acquired in September 2013 by the Landsat 8 satellite

Image of Venice, acquired in September 2013 by the Landsat 8 satellite

"Venice was born in the water, Venice was born of the water." -- Elizabeth Crouzet-Pavan

Venice comprises 118 islands in the lagoon, off the northeast coast of Italy. They cover 160 square miles of land. Two elongated barrier (or littoral) islands (called Lido and Pellestrina), with three openings to the Adriatic Sea, separate the lagoon islands from the sea. From north to south (top to bottom) the openings are called: Lido, Malamocco, Chioggia. Please select the image to magnify it and see the many islands.

The islands in the lagoon have different characteristics. The main island of Venice (largest, red, fish-shaped in the image) is the most developed and populated and comprises two interlocking land masses with the Grand Canal between them. This island is the historical city (in Italian called "centro storico," historical center) to which tourists flock. We will spend much of our time studying the art, architecture, and urban development of this historical center whose population has steadily and sharply declined in the past 70 years (1951 population = 175,000; 2015 = 60,000; 2017 = 55,000). Until 1846 when a train was built to connect Venice to the mainland of Italy, Venice had been completely inaccessible except by boat. When I refer to "Venice," I usually mean this historical center.

A few other islands are also popular with tourists, such as Murano for its glassmaking, Burano for its lacemaking (both historically and presently), and Lido for its beaches. But only some islands are inhabited, and most tourists do not explore the lagoon. It is the lagoon and its relationship with the rivers on the mainland of Italy (to the west) and with the Adriatic Sea (to the east) that cause this environment to undergo constant transformation. The northern Adriatic is an especially active area because it has the highest tides in the whole Mediterranean basin and is affected by the Sirocco (southeast wind). 

As comparisons: the city proper of Boston is much smaller, only 49 square miles (127 km2) but has a much larger estimated population of 692,600 in 2019.  At 169 square miles, New Orleans is about the same size as Venice but has a population (as of 2014) of 384,000, which is almost 7 times Venice. 


View of Grand Canal

The photo on the left shows the Grand Canal that bisects the island of Venice. Only the Grand Canal (the principal waterway) and the Giudecca Canal are natural features of Venice; all of the 158 minor canals ("rii" in Venetian dialect) were created during the land reclamation work. 

On the right, we see an old aerial view of Venice showing the two interlocking land masses created around the Grand Canal (which is u-shaped in this photo). To the right, you see the u-shaped Grand Canal meeting the Giudecca Canal that separates Venice from the island of Giudecca, the tip of which you see on the right.


Map of Italy 1494 Dominio Veneto Nell' Italia (Venetian Dominion in Italy), from "Atlas Maior..."

The map on the left shows the territorial divisions of Italy in the year 1494. Italy was not a united country until the late 19th century. After the Roman Empire of antiquity and before then, it was a series of city-states with different types of government. In 1494, the Republic of Venice was a maritime and land empire, and was on the eve of its "Golden Age" in the 16th century when its population reached 190,000. 

On the right is Joan Blaeu's famous and highly accurate map of the "Dominion of Venice" of 1665. We can use it to see the topographical changes between then and now. Magnify the map and look closely at the littoral (barrier) islands and the ports (openings)--how many do you see?

You should see 3 littoral islands and 4 ports, whereas today there are only 2 and 3 respectively. 

In this map you can also see the great plain to the west (left) of the lagoon (yellow colored). The Alps mountains are to the north (top). There are a series of rivers traversing the plain from the south to the far northeast: the rivers Po, Adige, Brenta, Sile, Piave, Isonzo. The Po River is on the border between the yellow region and the pink region below it.

Casone da pesca, Venetian Lagoon

One of many "fishing houses" in the Venetian lagoon. (Photo taken in 2014.)

Do you know what historiography means?

It means the history of a history. In other words, history changes. Venice has many histories and much has been written about them. Of the many histories written, I chose the first chapter from E. Crouzet-Pavan, Venice Triumphant: The Horizon of a Myth, trans. L.G. Cochrane (Baltimore and London, 2002): Ch. 1, “A City Born in the Water,” 1–45. This is a seminal reading for introducing key concepts: the relationship between history-myth and environment-urbanism of Venice. Chapter one describes the ways that the stretches of water and mud were transformed to produce Venice and the inhabited islands of lagoon. 

This quotation--"Venice was born in the water, Venice was born of the water."--indicates the essential role that its aquatic topography played in its history and myth. For Crouzet-Pavan, studying Venice teaches us about the relationship between humanity and the environment. Venice emerged out of the water, but later was threatened with the contrasting conditions of drowning and immurement. 

As you read Crouzet-Pavan, note what you find interesting and/or confusing. What do you learn about the relationship between Venice's history and myth and between its natural environment and the development of the Republic of Venice as a society and a city? In class, we will brainstorm about your ideas.

Casone da pesca, Venetian Lagoon

Early History of the Venetian Lagoon

According to Venetian legend, the lagoon was the only place in Italy that the ancient Romans had not settled. This post-antique foundation was important to the Venetians because they claimed that they were untainted by a pagan past. However, in the 20th century archaeological evidence shows that there were limited, modest and unstable Roman settlements in the lagoon.  

In 537-38, Cassiodorus (a Roman official stationed in Byzantine capital of Ravenna) wrote the earliest description of Venice. He said there was a humble fishing population that was removed from the official centers of power. This uncertain landscape of brackish water, silt, and reeds was populated by people who moved by boat, engaged in fishing, and exploited the salt flats. Cassiodorus's account inspired later writers to create a lasting image of a free people whose life on the water brought them peace, prosperity, and equality. 

Around 600, a new form of human settlement started to develop in the lagoon. It was larger and more permanent due to the ongoing invasions by Northern European kingdoms.  

Fleeing the mainland, these fishermen built fragile huts on stilts above mud flats, populating the marshes, sand bands, mud flats, and salt flats between Adriatic Sea and coastline. It was an amphibious and fluxuating environment, with nothing fixed in time or place. There was no firm shoreline. As marginal plots disappeared, new ones were formed. 

The settlement of Eraclea-Cittanova in the northern lagoon was the first political administration and was under the dominion of the Byzantine exarch in Ravenna. Other communities formed. 

In the 7th and 8th centuries, settlements gradually and slowly developed.

In 639 a church was built on the island of Torcello. Settlements (San Angelo Raffaele and San Niccolì dei Mendicoli) were formed on the rocky outcrop called Dorsoduro.

In 697 the first doge (or duke) was elected, and the seat of government was at Malamocco on the Lido island. Venice was under Byzantine control whose base on the Italian peninsula was Ravenna with its patron saint of Theodore.

In the 8th century, Byzantium lost control of Ravenna (751) and Venice was the only Byzantine outpost in Italy. In 773-74 Charlemagne conquered the  Lombard Kingdom in northern Italy and went to Rome where the pope crowned him (800). Charlemagne's son sacked Malamocco but islanders moved to another island.

In the 9th century, the urban growth of Venice coincided with increased economic growth and political power. 

In 810 the seat of the duchy moved to the Rialto (rivus altus), which signaled greater autonomy for Venice and the beginning of her building history. In 820 it moved to SAN MARCO where it was to remain. 

Merchants stealing body of Saint Mark

Merchants stealing body of Saint Mark

Because Venice did not have an illustrious antique foundation (like all other major cities in Italy), the Venetians created a different but equally impressive apocryphal tale.

It began in the 1st century, Saint Peter had sent his discipline Saint Mark to preach in Aquileia in the northern Adriatic in order to convert the area to Christianity. As Mark was returning to Rome, a storm forced him to seek refuge on an island in Venetian lagoon. An angel appeared and made a prophesy to him: 1. one day a great city would be built there, and 2. Mark was to be buried there. This prophesy is referred to as the PRAEDESTINATIO in Latin.

The Venetians claimed that the first part was fulfilled on March 25, 421, the birth date of Venice on the Feast of Annunciation.  

The second part of Venice's foundation tale was fulfilled in the 9th century in what is called the translatio (transfer). in 828, 10 Venetian ships were forced to stop at Alexandria, Egypt. It was unexpected because trade between the Fatimids in Egypt and Christians was forbidden. Two Venetian merchants took advantage of the situation to worship St. Mark’s relics in Alexandria, and they persuaded the Greek priest of the church to give them Mark's body for safekeeping from the Fatimid Muslims. Above we see a mosaic from San Marco showing the merchants escaping with his body in a basket. Supposedly, the sweet odor of his sanctity aroused the curiosity of Muslim authorities. They searched the Venetian ships but were deterred from looking too closely by salted pork that had been placed over the body. They tied Mark's body in a canvas sheet and hoisted up the rigging, where a breeze carried his sweet odor of sanctity across Mediterranean. During the journey St. Mark intervened in a storm and save the ship from ruin!

The Translation of the Body of St. Mark to the Basilica, above Door of Sant'Alipio of San Marco

The Translation of the Body of St. Mark to the Basilica, above Door of Sant'Alipio of San Marco

In 829 the body arrived in Venice. Look closely at the mosaic to find Mark's body. He became Venice's new patron saint and allowed the Venetians to assert full independence from Byzantium. The Venetians understood that Mark protected their city “that had no walls” because of this divine protection. (Marino Sanudo)

This apocryphal foundation distinguished Venice as chosen by God to be the first republic of the Christian era. Venice was a new Jerusalem and the Venetians would play a role in the process of human Salvation. 

The veracity of the story and whether the relics were in fact transported are debated, but Christendom quickly believed that that Mark was in Venice.

The oldest existing history of the lagoon was written by John the Deacon (c.940-1018) and he made the translatio an integral part of Venetian history. He added to the myth of Venice by describing the newborn city as endowed with order, beauty, and urbanity. 


Enthroned Justice Flanked by St. Michael the Archangel and the Angel Gabriel

Jacobello del Fiore, Enthroned Justice Flanked by St. Michael the Archangel and the Angel Gabriel

In 1421 Jacobello del Fiore made this painting for a civil and criminal courtroom in the Ducal Palace. It represents Venice's apocryphal history and predestined role in Salvation. 

At the center is the figure of Justice identified by her sword and scales. This personification (a figure who represents a concept, like Justice) also represents Venice because she is flanked by St. Mark's lions. She is also the Virgin Mary, who in religious art is depicted with a crown and on a throne.

Her inscription reads: "I shall obey the admonitions of the angels and the words of Holy Writ, dealing gently with the devout, angrily with the wicked, and proudly with the vainglorious."

Her identity as the Virgin Mary is confirmed by the figure to the right, the Angel Gabriel, who announced to the Virgin Mary that she was to bear the son of God. Gabriel's inscription reads: "My voice brought the message of peace to the Virgin's birth; she entreates you as a leader in troubled matters." This event in Mary's life is called the Annunciation. The lily, a symbol of Mary's purity, is an attribute (identifying object) of Gabriel. The representation of the Annunciation recalls Venice's apocryphal "birth" on March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation, 421. 

To the left is St. Michael the Arch Angel, patron saint of judges, who will play a crucial role in judgment during the Second Coming of Christ but here he also advises the judges: "Punishment to crime, worthy rewards to virtues, and he gives to me purged souls with kindly lance." Michael reinforces the role of divine justice in the rule of Venice and Salvation. 

These figures should inspire the judges who worked in this court to rule justly and make fair decisions, which contribute to Venice's work in guiding people toward salvation.   

Over time the legends, history and topography of Venice developed into the myth of Venice as "LA SERENISSIMA," the most serene republic. Its characteristics are: 

  • Political independence and individual freedom, a free people who governed themselves
  • Social and political stability 
  • Mediocritas (equality) that resulted in a strong communal identity 
  • Singularity – though built on an inhospitable site, the Venetians created the miracle of stone buildings rising from the sea (according to traveler accounts and Venetians)
  • Inviolability from its natural and divine protection

In 1364, the great Italian writer and humanist Francesco Petrarch summarized the city's identity: "The most august city of Venice is today the one home of liberty, peace, and justice, the one refuge of honorable men, haven for those who, battered on all sides by the storms of tyranny and war, seek to live in tranquility."

The term, Venezianità (Venetian-ness), defines Venetian otherness. Its identity was different from other Italian city-states because it lacked an ancient history, instead was associated with Byzantium and the Islamic world, and was formed from a singular environment. This difference is visible in the art and architecture of Venice, which are characterized by chromatic richness, patterns, light, and pastiche (collage-like appearance). Which of these formal characteristics can you identify in the painting of Enthroned Justice

View of harbor with castle in Hvar Town Castle of Hvar Tower with Venetian lion, Castle of Hvar View of harbor with Arsenal (left) in Hvar, Croatia View of harbor with Arsenal in Hvar, Croatia House with Venetian windows in Hvar Town Winged lion of St. Mark on building in Hvar Town

Maritime Power

In the 9th century, Venice's SEAFARING ECONOMY began to be established. Venetian economic and hence political power derived from the sea and to its geographical position between Asia and Europe. To maintain this position the Venetian doges had to constantly negotiate trade agreements with Byzantium and Europe. The capital of Byzantium, Constantinople, exerted an strong political, economic, and cultural influence on Venice. 

The 11th century was Venice's first GOLDEN AGE OF MARITIME POWER. Images, texts and rituals promoted the idea that Venice was Queen of Sea. In this period of prosperity under Doge Pietro Orseolo, the Venetians took control of the Adriatic Sea and established colonies in Zara, Split, Hvar, Brac, and other islands (that are now part of Croatia). Doge Orseolo conquered Dalmatia on the east coast of the Adriatic (present-day Croatia) which transfored the Adriatic into the Venetian gulf. Look at these photos of Hvar Town, on the island of Hvar in Dalmatia--both the architecture and the symbols (like the lion) record the presence of Venice.

One of the great accomplishments of the time was the Golden Bull (Bolla d’Oro), a treaty with the Byzantine emperor in 1082; in exchange for naval aid against the Franks and Normans, Venetians received major trading privileges with Byzantium, and they established a colony in Constantinople.

During this period of maritime expansion, the city of Venice was developed through land reclamation and major building. We will study this urban development elsewhere. 


Pope Alexander III Consigns a Sword to Doge Ziani as He Embarks on a Successful Naval Campaign against Otto, Son of Emperor Barbarossa

Peace of Venice

The myth of Venice grew over time. The so-called Peace of Venice in 1177 added another layer to the myth.  

Here's what we know. There was a conflict between Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Pope Alexander III because Barbarossa had invaded northern Italy. The communes of northern Italy and the pope joined together into the Lombard League and defeated Barbarossa in 1176. Barbarossa reconciled with the pope and acknowledged the pope’s rights as the temporal ruler of Rome (which he had previously denied), and he recognized the independence of the northern Italian states. The peace treaty was signed in 1177. 

The Venetians added a fictional part to the story that put themselves in the role of hero. They claimed that the Pope sought refuge from the Emperor in Venice and Venetians protected him. This resulted in a naval battle between the Venetian Doge Ziani and the Emperor. Doge Ziani won and captured the Emperor’s son, Otto. To obtain his release Otto persuaded his father to reconcile with the Doge and Pope. The three men met in Rome where the Pope gave Doge Ziani trionfi, or symbols of power: drawn sword (strength and justice); gold ring (annual marriage to sea as sign of maritime dominion); dais (platform of honor); lead seals (Venice’s independence); white candle (Venetian faith and piety). Henceforth, the Doge carried these symbols of power in processions. This story was important to Venice because it placed their leader on equal footing as the Pope and Emperor.

This large-scale oil on canvas painting (over 18 feet wide and high), POPE ALEXANDER III CONSIGNS A SWORD TO DOGE ZIANI AS HE EMBARKS ON A SUCCESSFUL NAVAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST OTTO, SON OF EMPEROR BARBAROSSA, celebrates this story in the Major Council Room of the Ducal Palace where the Venetian nobility that were part of the Major Council met to make governmental decisions.

Painted by the 16th-century Venetian painter, Francesco Bassano, in 1590, the painting sets the scene before the "piazzetta" or little piazza in front of the Ducal Palace (on right). In the piazzetta we see the column with the lion of St. Mark on the top. Behind the Ducal Palace we can just see one of the domes of San Marco. Bassano painted a fairly realistic setting to embed the story into the topography of the city. He uses dramatic perspective to draw our eyes into the scene and to the main protagonists: Doge Ziani who is about to embark to fight Barbarossa and Pope Alexander III who presents him with a sword, a symbol of rulership. When we think back to the story told, the trionfi were presented in Rome after the battle, but here Bassano takes artistic license to emphasize the relationship between doge and pope and the presence of Venice as a safe place for the pope. Magnify the digital image (it becomes very large) and study the details. What do you notice? Why do you think Bassano represented the scene as he did? What message does he communicate?

Fourth Crusaders Conquer Zara

Fourth Crusade (1202-04)

The Fourth Crusade from 1202-04 was initiated by Pope Innocent III with the objective of taking Muslim-controlled Jerusalem. For a variety of reasons, the western Crusaders (including Venice) sacked Constantinople, the capital of Greek-Christian Byzantium, and took the city. There they established the Latin Empire of East that lasted until 1259.

For Venice, this was an important moment because they used the Crusade to assert full independence from Byzantium, to recapture the rebellious Venetian port of Zara (Dalmatian Coast), and to acquire islands and coastal towns from the Byzantine Empire, including Crete (Candia), to strengthen their maritime commercial dominance. The Capture of Zara was depicted in the late 16th century by Andrea Michieli Vicentino, and hung in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Ducal Palace, commemorating this celebratory event in Venetian history.

Venice became the master of the Mediterranean (over rivals like Genoa and Pisa) and asserted itself as the new Constantinople.


Venice: The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day

Canaletto, The Basin of San Marco on Ascension Day

Marriage of the Sea

After the 4th Crusade the Venetians created a ceremony called the Marriage of the Sea (which developed an earlier ceremony called the blessing of sea). It took place annually on the Feast of the Ascension. In the eighteenth century, Canaletto represented the preparation for this ceremony in the basin of San Marco. We see the doge's sea throne, the ornate gold ship called the bucentaur (bucintoro), in the middle ground. From here, the ship sailed through the littoral barrier to the Adriatic where the doge threw a gold ring into the sea and said “We espouse thee, O Sea, as a sign of true and perpetual domination.” The ceremony both symbolized Venetian maritime dominion and rendered homage to the sea to perpetuate this beneficial relationship. By the eighteenth century, Venice was no longer a maritime power but the ceremony continued and drew tourists to the city who, with Venetians, enjoyed the festival from their small boats. 

The Horses of San Marco (Quadriga) Detail of the Basilica San Marco Facade

As spoils from the 4th CRUSADE, the Venetians took back booty from Constantinople. One of the most prized possessions were the four bronze horses taken from Constantine's hippodrome. Transferred to Venice, where they were installed on the balcony of San Marco, they symbolized Venice's assertion of itself as the new Constantinople.



Venice's political and commercial power and prestige continued to increase and its maritime republic expanded. This map shows the cities under Venetian dominion from 1380 to 1580, including coastal cities and islands of the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and eastern Mediterranean seas.

To maintain this predominance, Venice engaged in wars to protect and gain territory. They had a superior navy and were innovative in ship building, such as the light and fast galleys they created. Their greatest enemy in the 13th and 14th centuries was Genoa, the Italian seaport on the northwestern side of the Italian peninsula. 

Beginning in the 15th century, after Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453, their greatest rival was the Ottoman Empire, which was the longest and largest Islamic empire, from 1281-1924. We will learn much more about the cross-cultural exchange between the Venetians and the Ottomans.  

The merchant spirit was a defining characteristic of the Venetian character and Venetians believed that wealth was their due! Their geographical position was fortunate. Venice was a linchpin between Europe and the East (Adriatic Coast, Greece, Constantinople, Black Sea, Egypt, Holy Land) and mostly served as middlemen, importing goods from the Black Sea, Levant, Africa, and exporting them to Europe and taxing all goods coming through their ports. What made their economic success so notable was their deficiencies, that is, limited natural resources and a difficult environment.

Some products they traded were grain from Sicily, Anatolia and Black Sea; cotton from Asia Minor and Peloponnese; malmsey wine brought to England where empty ships were filled with wool for Flanders; spices from Far East; pearls from Ceylon; diamonds from Golconda; rubies and lapis lazuli from Badakshan; timber from Hamburg; metals from Bohemia; and slaves.

In the 16th century, Venetian trading dominance began to loosen, with new competition from Spain, Portugal, France, Genoa and Florence, and by the end of the century trade had declined by 50%. With this the Spanish, Dutch and English became the innovators in ship building and design. 


Terraferma (Land) Empire

In the 14th century, Venice also looked in the opposite direction, to the land and conquered a few cities in northeast Italy, beginning with Treviso in 1339.

From 1404-1454 ambitions grew and the government followed a policy of creating a land, or terraferma, empire, taking major cities like Padua, Vicenza, and Verona. View the map that shows the terraferma empire between 1380-1580. The northern border was the foothills of Alps and the southern was the Po-Adda River. This territorial expansion caused conflicts and wars with other city-states and nations. 

As Venice battled the Turks, it aimed to secure trade routes to other parts of Italy and northern Europe and create new markets. Land also provided another source of investment; in the 16th century, for the first time, Venetians with estates on the terraferma became gentleman farmers. Much of the land was swampy so to cultivate it, they had to create irrigation and drainage canals, build levees, and dredge rivers for navigational channels. The Venetians used and developed their engineering capabilities to solve this new environmental problem. The need to feed the Venetians was real. In the 16th century the population grew from 115,000 to 180,000. Likewise, the population explosion in the Ottoman Empire meant less exported grain from the Middle East.

Owning land was also symbolic. On the Italian peninsula and in Europe, it was a mark of status; the Venetians embraced this symbolic meaning and the nobility aimed to have an estate on the terraferma along with their palace in Venice. 


Venice is Europe’s most politically stable and longest-lived Republic, and Venetians thought it would last forever. Venice was perceived as continuously happy and peaceful in a world in which everything else was swept away by swiftly moving events! This is part of the myth of Venice as stable, inviolable, permanent. But, in fact, the Republic of Venice changed slowly over time to adapt to new circumstances.

It had a unique political system that brought together a monarchy (doge), democracy (Great Council), and an aristocratic oligarchy (Senate). In fact, political power was limited to the small percentage of noble families.  

Until the 12th century, the doge had singular power in his lifetime position and was referred to as primus inter pares, 1st among equals. But in the late 12th century, Venice established an electoral process and sought to limit the prerogatives of the doge through a document called a promissio.

In the 13th century, the political institutions crystalized:

The Great Council (Maggior Consiglio) was the keystone of government. Only noblemen could be members, and the number fluctuated between 600-1600 members of a pool of c. 3000 men. They met on Sundays to approve legislation and appoint officials who held posts in magistracies and councils to which they delegated some powers. The governing bodies were elected from the Great Council:

Doge = head of state, who had limited power and authority, was closely supervised and subject to prohibitions. He was the only official to serve for life and live in Palazzo Ducale (all other positions had fixed, typically short terms). Much ink has been spilled debating just how much power the doge did or did not hold.  

Senate (legislative body) = 120 men elected from the Great Council deliberated and voted on laws. There were smaller councils within the Senate. 

Collegio (executive body) = comprising Signoria (10 men) and Consulta (16 men)

Quarantia Criminal Council (judicial body) = 40-member council

Council of Ten = responsible for state security and investigated all threats to the state. It was greatly feared. 

Grand Chancellor = only official elected from the citizen class and represented the interests of citizens

Citizens filled the role of bureaucrats which were mostly permanent positions. Their efficiency was important for stability and longevity.

This highly developed bureaucracy needed a building to house it. The Ducal Palace (seen above) was rebuilt beginning in 1341.


Giustiniana Giustinian and an attendant on a balcony (fresco in the Stanza dell'Olimpo)

Veronese, Giustiniana Giustinian and an attendant on a balcony, fresco in the Stanza dell'Olimpo, Villa Barbaro, Maser, 1560-61. 

Social Structure

In Venice there were three distinct social orders: 

Patricians (nobili) were 5% of the population; this nobility was the ruling oligarchy and were also merchants and investors. In 1297 there were 230 families in this category when the Serrata occurred. This was the first "Closing" of Great Council; only families with males actively serving in Great Council since 1293 could claim noble status. The Great Council was only opened to new families during periods of crisis. 

Citizens (cittidini oridinarii) were 5-8% population. They had to be native-born citizens whose father and grandfathers had lived in Venice and never worked in manual occupations, or non-natives who had lived in Venice for 15 years and paid taxes. Many were wealthy and dressed and acted like nobles. They were educated professionals, merchants, military officers, civil servants/bureaucrats in chancellery like communal lawyers, secretaries, notaries. They provided stability to the running of state. Although they could not hold political office except for the Grand Chancellor that presided over Great Council, they were given a role in society by holding the administrative offices in large confraternities.  

Commoners (popolani)were 85-90% of the populatino. They were natives and foreigners, such as merchants, shop keepers, tradesmen, artisans, the poor, and the destitute.

Venetians espoused the ideas of moderation, equality, and communal identity, but in fact there was great social inequity. We will study how social status is and is not reflect in art and architecture. 



History and Myth