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The Story Of Venice

[Venice - First Impressions]  [The Story Of Venice]  [The Stones Of Venice]  [The Painters Of Venice]  [The Heart Of Venice]  [St Mark's Church]  [The Doges' Palace]  [The Grand Canal]  [Some Venetian Churches]  [Venetian Islands]  [More Articles About Venice] 

( Originally Published Mid-1900's )



The lagoon of Venice extends northward for some forty miles from Chioggia, and is protected on the east from stormy seas by the long, low-lying banks, known as lidi, which run parallel to the shore. One glance at the map is sufficient to explain why refugees should have sought refuge in the lagoon from Attila, "the scourge of God." Three miles of sea separate the islands of Venice from the mainland, and the lidi provide a magnificent natural defence against an enemy approaching from the Adriatic.

It is probable that the lagoon islands were inhabited by fisherfolk from the earliest antiquity, but the first big settlement certainly consisted of refugees from the mainland, flying from the Huns, the Goths, and the Lombards. Some of these refugees left burning towns behind them and fled in haste. At other times the migration was more leisurely, urban communities transporting possessions and, in some cases, even breaking up the churches on the mainland in order to rebuild them brick by brick on the lagoon.

The traditional date for the foundation of Venice is A.D. 421, but there is no authentic notice of the lagoon population before the letter which was addressed to the tribuni maritimi in 523 in the name of the King of the Goths.

Many of the early settlers regarded the lagoons as a temporary asylum, and returned to the mainland when the fury of invasion had spent itself. It was not until the Lombard invasion in 568 that the people of the lagoons began to regard these islands as their permanent home. The first Venetian Doge was elected at the end of the seventh century.

In the following century the islanders were attacked by Pepin, King of the Franks, and by his son, Charlemagne, and were forced to surrender their outlying islands and to concentrate on the Rialto, where they succeeded in defying the Franks. It was in this struggle that the state of Venice was born, and in 8IO the Rivo Alto (Rialto), the Venice of today, became the seat of government of the lagoon people.

The islands on which Venice is built were low mudbanks, barely rising above the sea. The oozy mud of which the soil was composed was incapable of supporting buildings without the aid of piles. There was no agricultural land on these islands; fish was the only source of food, and rainfall stored in open tanks was the only source, until modern times, of drinking-water. Such were the difficulties with which the founders of Venice were faced. But against these difficulties must be set the strategical advantages of the site, and the fact that the seaport of Venice was admirably placed for the Eastern trade.

St Theodore, the first patron saint of the lagoon population, was superseded in 829 by St Mark.

There is an old tradition current among the first settlers on the Rialto that St Mark was caught by a storm on his way from Alexandria to Aquileia and forced to land on one of the Rialtine islands. As he stepped out of his barque an angel appeared and said: "Peace to thee, Mark, my Evangelist," and informed him that his body would one day find a resting-place at the Rialto.

"Traditions, like prophecies," as Mr Okey remarks, "have a way of bringing their own fulfilment."

In 829 three Venetian traders contrived to steal the body of St Mark from Alexandria. The story of how "the precious body of Monsignor San Marco came to Venice" is told by that charming thirteenth-century analyst, Martino da Canale.

The Venetian traders first suborned the guardian of the body and persuaded him to remove the body of St Mark and to wrap another body in the cloth from which that of St Mark had been taken. At that very moment when they opened the tomb so sweet and so great an odour spread through the midst of the city that all the spiceries in Alexandria could not have caused the like. Wherefore the pagans said: " Mark is stirring," for they were wont to smell such fragrance every year. Nevertheless there were of them who misdoubted and went to the tomb and opened it and, seeing the body I have told of in St Mark's shroud, were satisfied.

The Evangelist saved the ship from wreck on the way to Venice, and silenced a scoffer who threw doubts on the genuineness of this holy relic by causing the said scoffer to be possessed of a devil until he prudently changed his mind and retracted. Da Canale continues:

And if anyone will know the truth let him come to Venice and see the fair Church of Monsignor San Marco, and look in front of this fair church, for there is inscribed all this story even as I have related it, and likewise he will gain the great pardon of vii years which Monsignor the Apostle [the Pope] granted to all who should go to that fair church.

Venice not only adopted the saint's name, for Venice is often styled the republic of St Mark, but also adopted St Mark's emblem, the lion, as her own.

As for poor St Theodore, their first patron, they did their best to console him by putting his statue on the summit of one of the two great columns in the Piazzetta, and there you can see him standing to this day, doing his best to ignore the church of his supplanter.

The expansion of Venice from a little island city to a European Power was due in the first instance to the legitimate anxiety of the Venetians to protect their sea-borne trade. The Adriatic was infested with pirates, who, using the Dalmatian coast as their base, levied blackmail on the Venetian ships. The great Doge Pietro Orseolo II began his reign in 991 determined to put an end to their activities. He captured Curzola, stormed the pirates' stronghold at Lagosta, and did not rest until he had obtained complete con trol of Dalmatia. To commemorate this victory he assumed the title of Duke of Dalmatia, a title which was borne by subsequent Doges.

Venice had now laid the foundations of her supremacy in the Adriatic. She commanded the route to the Holy Land, and was in a position to supply the necessary transport for the Crusades. And as a result Venice played a great part in these expeditions.

A Venetian naval contingent set sail in answer to a summons from Baldwin, King of Jerusalem, and contributed to the victory off Jaffa, and to the capture of Beirut in I Iog. In I I 18 the Republic again responded to an appeal, this time from the Pope, for assistance in rescuing the King of Jerusalem from the hands of the Saracens. The Venetians met and routed the Saracen fleet off Jaffa, and, in alliance with the Franks, besieged and captured Tyre.

Venice had now planted her flag in Syria, and had taken the first steps in attaining that complete control over the Levant which she established after the Fourth Crusade.

During the twelfth century Venice played an important role in the conflict between the Pope and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. This Empire, which, as Voltaire cynically remarked, was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, was an attempt to perpetuate the tradition of the Roman Empire. Theoretically the Emperor was the supreme arbiter in quarrels between rival princes; theoretically it was his duty to coerce all those who threatened to disturb the pax Romana. The Emperor was the head of the great orders of chivalry, and the sovereigns of Europe continued to address him in terms which admitted the inferiority of their own position and which yielded him the precedence which he claimed. It depended entirely on himself whether the precedence thus acquired corresponded to any real power and influence in the councils of Europe.

Frederick Barbarossa made a spirited attempt to translate this theoretical power into real ascendancy, an attempt which was doomed to fail, for the spirit of the age was on the side of nationality as against imperialism. The Imperial Vicars of the Italian cities were finding it more and more difficult to assert their position; twice the Emperor crossed the Alps to subdue independent Italian communes, and twice he was successful; but his success was only temporary, for the Lombard cities formed a league, and, with the wholehearted support of the Pope, resolved to resist the Emperor until the communal privileges had been secured.

Venice at first held aloof, but eventually came down on the side of the Lombard League, and contributed to the great victory of Legnano in 1176.

The Emperor, meanwhile, had set up an anti-Pope in opposition to Pope Alexander III, and succeeded in driving Alexander III into exile. Alexander replied by excommunicating the Emperor and by releasing his subjects from their oath of allegiance. The Emperor's position would have been stronger had his German clergy supported him unanimously, but both the clergy and the laity were divided into supporters and opponents. The schism, which lasted for seventeen years, damaged Frederick Barbarossa far more than it did the Pope. Alexander, an exile and a suppliant in foreign Courts, proved to be stronger than the mighty Emperor, perhaps because he fought with spiritual and impalpable weapons. The Emperor's failure at the battle of Legnano hastened his surrender. He began to negotiate for peace with the indomitable and unyielding Pontiff, who by then had found his way to Venice. The Emperor came as far as Chioggia in order to open the negotiations, but he could wring no concessions from the stubborn successor of St Peter. His emissaries returned dismayed. Peace, they reported, could be had at a price. Caesar must bow to Peter, the Emperor must recognize the Pope as God's vicar on earth.

The Emperor yielded, but he was not permitted to land in Venice "until he had set aside his leonine ferocity and put on the gentleness of the lamb." On July 23, 1177, Frederick, making an heroic effort to register lamblike gentleness, was brought in pomp to the Lido. Next day he disembarked in Venice, and was led in a procession to the Piazza di San Marco (usually referred to as the Piazza), where he found the Pope, surrounded by cardinals, awaiting him in front of St Mark's. The Emperor bowed his head and prostrated himself at the Pope's feet, and the Pope, bending forward, raised Frederick Barbarossa to his feet, gave him the kiss of peace, and blessed him.

Of the many legends to which this historic scene gave rise not the least incredible is that which represents Barbarossa lying prostrate on the ground, while Alexander, placing his heel on the Imperial neck, remarks: "I will tread on the asp and the basilisk." To which the Emperor replies: " Not to thee, but to Peter," only to be countered by the uncompromising retort: "Both to me and to Peter."

Barbarossa was not the only powerful prince over whom this stubborn Pope won a victory. It was Alexander III who obtained from our own King Henry II, without recourse either to ban or to interdict, every ecclesiastical privilege. It was because of the support which he gave to the claims of the Pope that Thomas a Becket lost his life.

The astute Venetians extorted valuable privileges both from the Pope and from the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa as their reward for the part which they had played in the historic reconciliation.

During his stay in Venice Alexander III was present at the famous ceremony which was later known as the wedding of the Adriatic, a rite which had been inaugurated by the great Doge Pietro Orseolo II, the conqueror of Dalmatia. As a token of Papal approval of the ceremony the Pope handed the Doge Sebastiano Ziani a consecrated ring with the words: "Receive this as a pledge of the sovereignty which you and your successors shall have in perpetuity over the sea."

For over 600 years this magnificent ceremony was enacted annually. The Doge, surrounded by the Patriarch of Venice, the great officers of State, and the foreign ambassadors, embarked on the large gilded barge, the Bucintoro, and sailed through the Porto di Lido to the open Adriatic. Here the Patriarch blessed the ring and gave it to the Doge, who threw it into the sea, pronouncing the time-honoured formula: "Sea, we wed thee in token of our true and perpetual dominion over thee." The ceremony only came to an end with the extinction of the Republic in 1797.

Early in the thirteenth century the Fourth Crusade provided the Republic with yet another opportunity to consolidate their powerful influence in the councils of Europe.

The French nobles had sent six envoys to invite the co-operation of the Venetian Republic in the Crusade. In February 1201 the envoys were received by the Grand Old Man of Venice, the octogenarian Doge Enrico Dandolo. "Sir, we are come to you," said the envoys, "from the high barons of France who have taken the sign of the Cross to avenge the shame of Jesus Christ, and to conquer Jerusalem if God will grant it to them; and because they know that no people have such power as you and your people they pray you to have pity on the land overseas and the avenging of the shame of Jesus Christ, so that they may have ships and the other things necessary."

The terms on which help would be forthcoming were duly agreed, and the envoys were required to appear before the assembled people in St Mark's and entreat them to consent to the conditions which had been provisionally accepted by the Doge. Eight days later the Venetians crowded into every corner of St Mark's and listened with pride and pleasure while an envoy of the French paid tribute to their greatness. "Therefore have they chosen you," he cried, "because they know that no people accustomed to going on the seas have such power as you and your people; and they commanded us to throw ourselves at your feet and not to rise until you had consented to have pity on the Holy Land beyond the seas." Six noble envoys knelt until the Doge and the people cried out with one voice: " We grant it, we grant it! "

It was agreed that the Crusaders should assemble in twelve months' time. The year passed, and the Venetians had completed their side of the bargain and had provided a magnificent fleet. But the Crusaders who arrived in Venice were too few to fill the fleet; many who had promised to come did not put in an appearance, and, moreover, 30,000 marks were still needed to make up the sum which the French had agreed to contribute to the expenses of the fleet.

The Doge pointed out that as the contract had been broken the sum which had been paid was forfeited, but he suggested a compromise. The Republic would modify their claim if the Frankish barons would assist the Venetians to subdue Zara, on the Dalmatian coast. The barons had no option but to accept.

The fleet set sail and, after a stubborn fight, captured Zara. There they wintered, and were just on the point of leaving, when Alexis, the young son of Isaac Angelus, the recently dethroned Emperor of Byzantium, arrived and implored the aid of the Crusaders to expel the usurper from the throne. Enrico Dandolo did not require to be convinced. He welcomed any excuse for diverting the Crusade to Constantinople. Apart from the prospect of establishing a Venetian colonial empire on the ruins of the Byzantine Empire, he had an old score to settle for the indemnity which the Byzantines had failed to pay for the wanton spoliation of the Venetian merchants.

The protests of the more conscientious Crusaders, who had taken the Cross not to fight against Christians, but to free the Holy Land from the infidels, were ignored, and the armada set sail for Constantinople.

Dandolo was the hero of the siege, which began on April 8, 1204. He had been ambassador in Constantinople, and his local knowledge was as valuable to the allies as his dauntless courage. Constantinople was captured, and the father of Alexis was restored to the throne. But a conflict soon broke out, for the Greeks were reluctant to pay the price of Venetian assistance, and rose against their erstwhile allies. For the second time Constantinople was besieged. The first assault failed, but the old Doge put new heart into his men by his brave words of encouragement. "Marvel not," he said, "that the French have failed to take the city, for though they be brave men and wise, they are not used to climb ships' ladders as you are. Remember what your forefathers did at Tyre and through Syria and Dalmatia and Romania, where verily no fortress could withstand their onslaught. I know well that ye be of such lineage that no city can be defended against you. And I promise you, by the faith I hold in God, that I will share among you the great treasures within the city."

The second assault succeeded, and the soldiers were allowed three days in which to pillage Constantinople. The Crusaders were ruthless in their cruelty. "These defenders of Christ," wrote Pope Innocent III himself, "who should have turned their swords only against infidels, have bathed in Christian blood. They have respected neither religion, nor age, nor sex."

Drunken soldiery poured into St Sophia, destroyed the sacred books, drank from the consecrated vessels, and distributed to courtesans and camp-followers the jewels wrenched from the altars. A prostitute was enthroned on the throne of the Patriarch and sang a ribald song.

The four famous bronze horses which now adorn St Mark's formed part of the spoil. Monasteries and churches all over Europe, even as far away as Norfolk, were enriched by the reliquaries and jewels looted in Constantinople.

The political results of the capture of Constantinople were momentous. This great Eastern outpost of Christendom against the rising power of Moslemism was seriously weakened, and indeed it is no exaggeration to say that the capture of Constantinople by the Venetians prepared the way for the great tragedy of 1453.

Baldwin, Count of Flanders, became the first Latin Emperor of the East, retaining one-fourth of the ancient Empire. Venice took Morea, the Ionian Islands, most of the Hellespont, and obtained by purchase the island of Crete. More important still, Venice virtually governed Canstantinople through the governors and officials appointed by the Republic. Indeed, a motion to transfer the seat of government of the Venetian Republic from Venice to Constantinople was only lost by a casting vote.

The Fourth Crusade was followed by a long struggle with Genoa for maritime supremacy, a struggle which began with the first Genoese war in 1256 and ended with the complete defeat of the Genoese fleet off Chioggia in 1380. As a result of this victory Venice remained in undisputed control of the Mediterranean and of the trade with the Levant.

Among the factors which contributed to the rise of Venice to be one of the greatest commercial Powers in the world was her wise attitude toward the Inquisition.

The commercial decline of Spain was very largely due to the activities of the Holy Office. All those who had acquired by purchase or by inheritance the property of a man who was subsequently condemned for heresy were forced to relinquish that property to the Inquisition. A grudging exception was made in favour of Catholics who had held in good faith for fifty years property which had once belonged to heretics. At a Spanish auto-da-fe of July 25, 1485, the effigies of more than 40o dead were burnt, and their heirs were summoned to appear within twenty days to render an account of their inheritance. The retroactive energy of the Inquisition may be illustrated by the case of Sanchez, who was born in 1406 and died in 1456. In 1525 his body was disinterred, and his heirs robbed of his estate.

One can readily imagine the appalling insecurity which would be produced by the knowledge that a prosperous merchant might suddenly be made bankrupt, not for his own failings, but as a result of a prosecution against his dead grandfather.

No great trading state could tolerate this sort of nonsense and survive. It was clearly to the interests of the Venetian Republic that men of all nations should come and go without let or hindrance from the ecclesiastical authorities. Jews, for instance, after they had been driven from Spain, took refuge in Venice and brought their trade with them. Our own statesman Disraeli was descended from a family that had settled in Venice after being expelled from the Iberian peninsula.

It is pleasant to find the Council of Ten at Venice intervening on behalf of mercy and charity during the worst of many bad epidemics of witch-hunting in Northern Italy. When the infection was at its worst the Council of Ten restrained the activities of the Inquisitors operating on Venetian territory against witches. Whereupon Pope Leo X issued a Bull of interdict and excommunication against all those who impeded the carrying out of the sentences on the witches. The Council of Ten replied by insisting on a retrial of all those who had been condemned on Venetian territory, the retrial to be carried out without the use of torture. The Papal legate had to listen to some very plain speaking on the subject of the Inquisition. He was asked to remember that the poor people of Venetia who had been harried by witch hunters "were much more in need of good preaching than of persecution."

In 1289 Venice agreed to accept the Inquisition with very severe restrictions. Three lay representatives had to be present at every meeting, and these lay representatives had the right to suspend proceedings. The Inquisitors appointed by the Pope were subject to the control of the Doge. The property of condemned heretics descended to their heirs, with the result that heresy-hunting was not commercially profitable to the Inquisitors, and public confidence was not shaken in Venice as in Spain by the fact that property might be sequestrated at any moment on the ground that it had been inherited from a heretic.

As a result of lay control the Inquisition in Venice was comparatively harmless. According to the archives there were only six cases of the death penalty being inflicted by the Inquisition in Venice. Heretics who were condemned to death at Venice were drowned or strangled, never burnt.

The attitude of the Republic toward the Inquisition was characteristic. The Venetians were good Catholics, but they did not tolerate Papal interference in matters which they considered came within their own jurisdiction.

In 1581 Gregory XIII declared that he was tired of being Pope everywhere but at Venice. The inevitable conflict between the Papacy and Venice came to a head in 1605. The Republic had refused to send their nominee for the Patriarch State of Venice to Rome to be examined and approved. Moreover, they had convicted two clerics who had been tried in the civil courts. One of the clerics in question had been accused of poisoning his father. Paul V replied by threatening the Republic with the interdict and with excommunication.

In the fourteenth century the Pope had supported his claim to Ferrara by excommunicating the Venetians who had taken possession of that city. He had called upon all Christian people " to arm against the Venetians, to spoil them of their goods, as separated from the union of Christendom, and as enemies of the Roman Church." The Venetians were driven out of Ferrara, and suffered vast commercial losses. Merchandise which they possessed was confiscated, and their merchants were arrested and maltreated. " Woe to us," writes Giustina Renier Michiel, "if the Saracens had been baptized Christians! Our nation would have been utterly destroyed."

The ruin which was brought about by this excommunication so much impressed the Venetians that it passed into popular speech. The Venetians would say of a man of gloomy aspect, "He looks as if he were bringing the excommunication of Ferrara."

In the year 1552 two `Pauls' were born into the world, Paul the Pope and Paul the friar. Paolo Sarpi, the great Venetian opponent of the Papacy, entered at the age of thirteen the Order of the Servi di Naria, a minor Augustinian congregation. He travelled to Mantua, and made a great name for himself as a theologian in a public disputation, with the result that the Duke of Mantua appointed him the theologian to the Court. He spent some years both in Milan and in Rome, and he was then recommended by the Venetian Republic for a bishopric, but the Papal nuncio, who was anxious to secure the bishopric for a protege of his own, reported at Rome that Sarpi denied the immortality of the soul. A second attempt to procure him another bishopric also failed, the Pope giving as his reason the fact that he was displeased by Sarpi's extensive correspondence with learned heretics. These disappointments were not calculated to stimulate in Sarpi any affection for the Holy See.

When the Papal nuncio delivered his brief threatening Venice with the interdict and excommunication Sarpi presented a memoir to the Senate suggesting that these censures might be met by prohibiting their publication, and by an appeal to a general council. The Senate accordingly refused to receive the Bull of excommunication from the Papal nuncio, and instructed the officers of State to stop every copy at the frontier. The moral, political, and religious defence of the Republic was entrusted to Sarpi. All priests and monks were commanded to disregard the Papal Bull, and those who showed any tendency to ignore this instruction were ordered to open their churches on pain of death. The Jesuits were banished from Venice.

The struggle lasted for one year. The case for the Republic was argued at length by Sarpi in numerous pamphlets, which were read throughout Europe. The Pope tried to incite the Catholic Powers against Venice, but they refused to be involved in this quarrel. At length in April 1607 the French king succeeded in persuading all parties to the dispute to accept a compromise. Papal dignity was saved at the cost of conceding to the Venetians all the points at issue. The Republic continued to try clerical cases in their own courts and to nominate church officers under their jurisdiction.

Sarpi himself would probably have preferred the complete separation of the Venetian from the Roman Church, or, indeed, the toleration of Protestant worship in Venice. In his youth he had been tried for heresy at Milan and acquitted, a mistake which Rome never afterward ceased to regret. After the interdict had been withdrawn he was invited in flattering terms to visit Rome and reassure the authorities on the grounds of his orthodoxy. He declined this kind invitation. One evening as he was returning from the Ducal Palace he was attacked by a band of assassins and left for dead. The assassins took refuge in Papal territory. Sarpi recovered, and was overwhelmed with new honours by the Republic.

When the surgeons remarked on the jagged character of his wounds Sarpi wittily replied, "Agnosco stylum curiae Romance."Sarpi's last moments were spent in the service of Venice. On his death-bed he was dictating his views on some important problems which had come before the Senate. Then his mind began to wander. "It is growing late," he murmured.

"I must hasten to St Mark's, for I have much to do."

Sarpi was a man of great intellectual and scientific attainments. He was a friend of Galileo, with whom he corresponded for years. But he was first and foremost a great Venetian, and only secondarily a religious reformer. Had he been born in Germany he would undoubtedly have become a Protestant. His last words were a prayer for his country: "Esto perpetua."

The commercial decline of Venice began with the discovery of the Cape route to India. Great was the consternation when the Venetians learnt that Vasco da Gama, in command of a Portuguese fleet, had reached India after rounding the Cape, and had returned to Lisbon with a rich cargo of spices. The cost of spices was increased nearly fiftyfold on the land journey from India to Venice owing to the dues exacted by the powerful princes through whose territory the merchandise was transported. Sea-borne merchandise escaped these dues, and it was clear that the Portuguese threatened the very existence of the Venetian trade with the East. In desperation the Venetians sent envoys to Egypt. They informed the Sultan that he would lose the dues on merchandise transported through his territory if the Portuguese were not prevented from making use of the newly discovered searoute. The Sultan was urged to seek an alliance with Indian princes, who would be similarly affected by the activities of the Portuguese, and to take concerted military measures to destroy the Portuguese trade. But of course all these futile efforts to fight against the inevitable proved completely ineffective.

Venice was at the height of her power in the fifteenth century, but began to lose ground after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. In an attempt to retain their Eastern trade the Venetians entered into a treaty with the Turks, but soon realized that they would have to fight if they wished to retain their Eastern possessions in the teeth of the growing power of Islam.

The first Turkish war lasted from 1464 to 1479, and ended in the loss of several places in Morea and in the payment by Venice of anannual tribute for trading rights.

The Republic, however, maintained her prestige until the European Powers formed the League of Cambrai against her in 1508 and, as a result of the victory of Agnadello, secured complete control of Venetian territory to the shores of the lagoon. Venice was saved by dissensions among the allies, but she never recovered from the results of this campaign.

During the next two centuries the Republic was engaged in four wars with the Turks, emerging after each campaign with further loss of territory. The last great victory gained by the Republic was the naval victory of Lepanto. The Papacy, Spain, and Venice had concluded an alliance. The allied fleets, under the supreme command of Don John of Austria, the Spanish admiral, engaged the Turkish fleet off Lepanto, in the Gulf of Corinth. The Turks attacked the Venetian flagship, and the Venetian Admiral Venieri, a veteran of seventy years, led his men into action and performed incredible deeds of courage. The Turks were completely routed, losing 30,000 men and over 200 ships. The great Cervantes, who was in the Spanish Navy at the time, lost the use of an arm in this engagement.

But the battle of Lepanto, which was fought on October 7, 1571, proved to be a sterile victory from which the Republic reaped no advantage. The Turks recovered from the blow and forced Venice to surrender Cyprus, which she never recaptured. In the fifth Turkish war the Republic lost Crete, and in 1718 she was compelled to relinquish all claims on Greece and re stricted to her possessions in Italy and Dalmatia. The Republic had ceased to be a great political Power, and had become, in the words of Byron,

The pleasant place of all festivity, The rival of the earth, the masque of Italy.

Venice retained her independence until the Napoleonic wars, but the mere rumour of Napoleon's approach during May 1797 sufficed to precipitate the surrender of the degenerate Republic. On May 16, 1797, Napoleon entered Venice as a conqueror, this being the first time since its foundation that a foreign invader had set foot within the city. "Take it away," said the last Doge of Venice, as he handed his biretta to his servant, "take it away; we shall not need it again."

A few days later workmen were busy changing the words Pax tibi Maree, Evangelista meus, on St Mark's facade into "Rights of man and of citizenship." The Libro d'Oro (see p. 106 was burnt on the Piazza, and Napoleon was effusively thanked in an eloquent epistle for bestowing liberty on Venice.

In 1814 Venice was assigned to Austria, and remained under Austrian rule until 1848. In that year Daniele Manin led a rebellion. Venice declared itself a republic, but had to surrender to the Austrians after a siege of fifteen months. In 1866, as the result of a successful war against Austria, Venetia was united to the new kingdom of Italy, and the threescore years and ten of subjection to a foreign Power came to an end. The Republic of St Mark emerged from captivity, and took its place as the fairest jewel in the crown of the new kingdom of Italy.



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