The history of Venice Italy
around the Renaissance times.
A Veneto town between East and West

The most brilliant period of the history of Venice Italy begins after 1000 AD.

Over the centuries the structure of the town changes, and brick houses and majestic palaces replace the wooden pile dwellings of the early days.

During its history Venice, Italy, has been collecting some of the most well known Gothic architecture the world has ever seen.
In many of the buildings there are definite eastern influences.
Venice is an eastern town in this sense.
Its relationship have always been much more with the East than with the West, and its art and architecture mirrors that. The Venice's history can not neglect its being kind of a western town of the East.

Map of the Venice Republic at its peak
(Photo credit by Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa)

Venezianische Kolonien

The melting-pot in the history of Venice Italy

During the middle ages crusades, Venice was one of the wealthiest towns, and the most overcrowded mediterranean port.
You may say that it was the first multi-cultural town of Europe, where you could easily run into northern european merchants, Slaves, Greeks and Byzantines seamen.

In this day and age, just as a mark of the venetian melting pot of the time, we still have in Venice some buildings or areas like the Fondaco dei Turchi (warehouse of the Turkish), the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (warehouse of the Germans), the Riva degli Schiavoni (the shore of the Slaves), the Isola di San Giorgio degli Armeni (the island of St George of the Armenians, currently one of the most important centers of armenian culture in the world), the Ghetto ebraico(the jewish ghetto).

By the way... the word ghetto, now used in many languages, is venetian...
At the time, though, it did not hold the derogatory meaning of nowadays. The word ciao too - later on flowed into the italian language - has a venetian copyright...

Venice, in short, had become from the economical and cultural point of wiew what Rome was in the ancient times.

At the peak of its expansion, around 1500-1600, the Republic of Venice encompassed a large part of the north eastern Italy, then the today’s croatian Histria and most of the dalmatian coast and islands. Plus, most of the today’s greek islands, and part of the greek Peloponnese.

The greek island of Creta, for example, was venetian for 4 centuries long. It was then conquered by the Ottomans after a 22 year long war against the Venetian Republic.

Nowadays you can find in these eastern Mediterranean places a strong venetian legacy in their towns, monuments and buildings style.
Just a curiosity: nowadays venetian is still spoken in some croatian islands and in some areas of the dalmatian coast, most of all by old people.
Not to forget about sailor’s slang, which borrows a lot of venetian terms.

The history of Venice Italy is therefore tightly connected to the eastern Mediterraneo


A war of the Renaissance times: everybody against Venice

The power of Venice bothered the other powers of the time. I just want to mention the most important war of the Renaissance times, which is the Cambrai war (1509-1516), as it is significant to understand the strength of the Republic of Venice at the time.

This war is amazing, kind of a world war, an event which took part all the powers of the time in. More than 15 powers joined forces against the strong Venetian Republic in order to prevent it to further expand towards the mainland.

Those powers, just to name them, were the Kingdom of Spain, France, the Papal State, the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of Scotland, The Kingdom of Hungary, the Swiss, the Dukeness of Milan, the Dukeness of Ferrara, and the Dukeness of Urbino.
I am getting boring, I know...I listed them just to give a clue about the huge deployment imbalance.

Despite this, the Republic of Venice won the war, and did not lose any of its territories.

During the Renaissance times Venice was one of the most liberal towns of Italy, quite independent from the conservative power of the Papal State.
Progressive scholars like the tuscan Galileo Galilei found refuge in the Republic of Venice, teaching in the prestigious Padua University , one of the 10 oldest in the world (it was founded in 1222).

The brilliant history of Venice Italy comes to an endin 1797, when the declining Venetian Republic yielded to the military campaigns of Napoleon in Italy.
It was relinquished to the Austrian Empire, which ruled over Venice and the mainland territories for about 60 years.

In this day and age, Venice is just an italian town like the other ones. But you can absorbe its unique history in every canal, rio> or calle there.

The islands which the town is built upon are steadily sinking, yet the Venetians themselves keep them afloat using pumping stations. They are also building a big engineering project called Mose, which is a system of big movable barriers able to lift up when the tides exceed a certain level, so to prevent the water from flooding the town, causing the picturesque - not for the Venetians - phenomenon of acqua alta.

You might also want to read about the early history of Venice Italy, back in the 450 AD.

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