Friday, February 28, 2020

Italy | Venice | 1177 Treaty of Venice

In 1177 Doge Sebastiano Ziani (r. 1172–1178) would find himself mediating between the Papacy in the person of Pope Alexander III,  the  alliance of city-states of northern Italy known as the Lombard League, and the Holy Roman Empire led by Frederick I, also known as Barbarossa (Red Beard). The negotiations, which resulted in the so-called 1177 Treaty of Venice, put Venice in the limelight as one of the major players in European affairs. The Dandolos, most especially Uncle Enrico,  whose nephew Enrico Dandolo would later become doge and led the Fourth Crusade, were active participants in the congress that lead to the Treaty of Venice and family shared in the limelight.
Pope Alexander III (click on photos for enlargements)
Frederick I (1122 –1190) was a member of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty, based in what is now Germany, who thought of themselves as the successors of ancient Romans who ruled the Roman Empire and thus entitled to rule Europe, including Italy. With this in mind Frederick I launched a series of invasions into the Italian Peninsula and in 1158 claimed direct imperial control over most of what is now northern Italy. To counteract this takeover by the Holy Roman Empire (about which Voltaire famously quipped, “It was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire.”) the city-states of northern Italy, including Milan, Bologna, Verona, Padua, Venice, and many others organized themselves in 1167 into the Lombard League. The Normans, who from their base in Sicily ruled much of the southern Italian Peninsula, also aligned themselves against the Holy Roman Emperor. 

Attempting to also control Rome and the Papacy, Frederick I installed his own candidates on the throne of St. Peter, resulting in three anti-popes, Victor IV (r.1159-1164), Paschal III (r. 1164-1168) and Calixtus III (r. 1168-1178). Anti-Pope Victor IV’s quite literal seizure of the throne of St. Peter has to be one of the more farcical episodes in the entire history of the Papacy. John Julius Norwich:
On September 5, 1159, the day after the body of Pope Hadrian had been laid to rest in St. Peter’s, about thirty cardinals assembled in conclave behind the high altar of the basilica. Two days later, all but three of them had cast their votes for the former chancellor, Cardinal Roland of Siena, who was therefore declared to have been elected [as Pope Alexander III]. One of the three, however, was the violently pro-imperialist Cardinal Octavian of Santa Cecilia, and just as the scarlet mantle of the Papacy was brought forward and Roland, after the customary display of reluctance, bent his head to receive it, Octavian dived at him, snatched the mantle, and tried to don it himself. A scuffle followed, during which he lost it again; but his chaplain instantly produced another—presumably brought along for just such an eventuality—which Octavian this time managed to put on, unfortunately back to front, before anyone could stop him. There followed a scene of scarcely believable confusion. Wrenching himself free from the furious supporters of Roland, who were trying to tear the mantle forcibly from his back, Octavian—whose frantic efforts to turn it the right way around had resulted only in getting the fringes tangled around his neck—made a dash for the papal throne, sat on it, and proclaimed himself Pope Victor IV.
After riots and street-fighting in which the allies of Frederick I and the Anti-Pope prevailed, Roland of Sienna—Pope Alexander III—was forced to flee Rome. Two more Anti-Popes, both creatures of Frederick I, would claim to lead the Papacy before Alexander himself would reclaim the throne of St. Peter.

Frederick’s dream of adding Italy to the Holy Roman Empire ended on May 29, 1176, when the Lombard League, with Pope Alexander III as its symbolic leader, trounced the imperial army at the Battle of Legnano, fought near the town of Legnano in what is now the Lombardy region of Italy. With no alternative but to sue for peace, Frederick sent envoys to Pope Alexander III, who at the time was encamped at Anagni, in the hills southeast of Rome. An agreement was reached to hold a peace conference in the summer of 1177, but the site of the proposed congress soon became a contentious issue. Frederick I was understandable loath to venture into one of the cities of the Lombard League and the Pope was leery of areas which still harbored imperial support. At this juncture the Pope decided to visit Venice. 

After a circuitous trip through the Adriatic, during which he stopped at Zara (now Zadara in Croatia), soon to play a role in the Fourth Crusade, the Pope arrived at the Monastery of San Nicolò al Lido, on the north side of the Lido, the barrier island south of Venice proper, on March 24, 1177. He was met by a welcoming party made of the sons of Doge Ziani and other prominent Venetians, probably including Enrico Dandolo. The next day he was ferried by a sumptuously appointed state galley to near the Ducal Palace, where he was transferred to the doge’s own ceremonial galley. On board he took a seat between Doge Ziana and Patriarch (Uncle) Dandolo. After landing at the piazzetta, he made his way through a throng of thousands who had gathered to witness the first visit of a pope to Venice and entered the Church of San Marco, where a mass was said. After the mass the Pope was taken in the doge’s galley along the  Grand Canal to the palace of Patriarch Dandolo, near the Rialto, where he would stay as the Patriarch‘s guest for the next two weeks.“ The Patriarch probably met and perhaps dined with the Pope on a daily basis and it entirely likely that at some point his nephew Enrico had further interactions with the Pope. These would have given the future doge valuable insights into the mind of a pope and the working of the papacy, information which would come in valuable when as a leader of the Fourth Crusade Enrico Dandolo would clash with a later pope. In any case, as one historian points out, “It is striking that when Alexander III met with the secular and ecclesiastical leaders of Venice, prominent among both groups were elderly men named Enrico Dandolo.”

On April 9, after two full weeks in Venice, the Alexander III departed for the city of Ferrara, fifty-five miles southeast of Venice, where he met with representatives of  Frederick I and the Lombard League and began negotiations on where to actually hold the peace conference. After various Lombard League cities were rejected as too partisan, Venice was proposed as the meeting place, one reason being that Venice, because of various ongoing disagreements with the Lombard League, had not participated in the Battle of Legnano and was thus seen as more-or-less neutral ground. Frederick favored Venice because it was, as he put it, ““subject to God alone.’” According to one historian: 
Both Emperor and Pope were too suspicious of each other to risk themselves in any city which they believed to be decidedly a partisan of either. The accidental neutrality of Venice during this war, and the fact that she was essentially different from other Italian cities, being in many respects not an Italian town at all, indicated the capital of the lagoons as the city best suited for the meeting of the spiritual and temporal sovereigns.
To allay the fears of the Lombard League that Frederick would exert undue influence  on the proceedings if he were personally present in Venice Doge Ziani was compelled to take a solemn oath that the Emperor would not be allowed in the city  until a peace agreement had been finalized and then only with the permission of Pope Alexander III.

Pope Alexander III then returned to Venice and along with his considerable suite again took up in the Patriarchal Palace of Uncle Enrico Dandolo. Other dignitaries and their retinues from the League, the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Sicily, and western Europe, including France and England,  swarmed into Venice to witness the proceedings, turning the area around the Rialto into a beehive of activity. The Archbishop of Cologne was accompanied by 400 priests, secretaries, and hangers-on. Count Roger of Andria, the envoy of the King of Sicily, had a retinue of 330. The Patriarch of Aquileia and the archbishops of Mainz and Magdeburg each had 300 attendants.  Duke Leopold V of Austria, apparently one of the lesser lights of the conference, had only 160. All subsequent negotiations took place in the Patriarchal Palace at San Silvestro, where the delegates met twice a day, every day, until the terms of the treaty had been hammered out. Uncle Enrico Dandolo at the very nexus of these crucial proceedings which would decide the future of Italy and the Papacy. We are not told what if any role Enrico Dandolo, the future doge, played these events but we can assume he was at his uncle‘s elbow and was a witness to the statecraft that went into the treaty being decided upon in the Patriarchal Palace. 

The Campo San Silvestro, where the Patriarchal Palace was located, is 700 feet west-southwest of the current-day Rialto Bridge and directly across the Grand Canal from what was the location of the Dandolo family compounds. The current-day Rialto Bridge, built at the Grand Canal’s narrowest point, was completed in 1591. At the time of the 1177 peace conference there may not have been any bridge across the Grand Canal in the Rialto area. The first recorded Rialto bridge, which consisted of pontoons, was built four years later in 1181 by Nicolo Barattieri (presumably the same Nicolo Barattieri who erected around this time the two huge columns at the southern end of the Piazzetta, one topped by St. Theodore and the other by the Lion of St. Mark. which stand there to this day). 

The nearby Campo San Silvestro is now lined with impressive three and four-story buildings, but if any of them once served as the Patriarchal Palace of Uncle Enrico the city of Venice has not seen fit to indicate it with an historical marker, nor do any readily available guidebooks or histories allude to the palace at this location. Until evidence emerges to the contrary we must assume that it no longer exists. The Church of San Silvestro that stood at the time of the conference is also long gone. The original church was rebuilt and reconsecrated in 1422, but in 1820 it partially collapsed and was completely rebuilt in 1837. A new facade was added in 1909. However, sometime in the sixteenth century a guild of wine merchants built a two-story building hard up along the right hand side of the old church. This building survived the demolition of the previous church in the 1820s and can still be seen there today. In the first floor of the building is a chapel said to contain the altar of the original Church of San Silvestro, the one that existed in Uncle Enrico’s day. If this is indeed the original altar then it is quite possible that Patriarch Dandolo, Pope Alexander III, and other dignitaries worshipped in front of it. This may be the only surviving memorial to the events that took place in the Campo San Silvestro during the peace conference of 1177. 

The Guild of Wine Merchants in the foreground with the Church of San Salvador behind

None of the stately buildings lining the campo appear to be the Palace of Patriarch Enrico Dandolo.
By the beginning of July, 1171, a final draft of a peace treaty had been pounded out by the delegates working in the Patriarchal Palace and sent to Frederick I, who had been cooling his heels on the mainland, for his approval. By June 22 all parties had agreed to the treaty and the Pope gave his permission to Frederick to proceed to Venice and finalize the agreement. Six lavishly appointed galleys were sent to Chioggia, a city fifteen miles south of Venice itself, at the very southern end of Venetian Lagoon to bring the Holy Roman Emperor to the Monastery of Monastery of San Nicolo, on the Lido, where Pope Alexander had stayed before him. Here he formally recognized Alexander III as the true pope, if had not done so before, putting an end to the line of three Anti-Popes he had earlier initiated. In return the Pope lifted the excommunication that had been placed upon him seventeen years earlier when he had installed the first Anti-Pope in the person of the odious Victor IV on the throne of St. Peter. These conditions having been met, he was transported to the Molo in front of San Marco in the doge’s own galley, seated between Doge Ziani and Patriarch Enrico Dandolo.

Meanwhile, preparations had been made for the actual meeting between Frederick Barbarossa and Pope Alexander III. According to one eye-witness account:
“At daybreak, the attendants of the Lord Pope hastened to the church of St. Mark the Evangelist and closed the central doors … and thither they brought much timber and deal planks and ladders, and so raised up a lofty and splendid throne.… Thither the pope arrived before the first hour of the day [6 A.M.] and having heard Mass soon afterward ascended to the higher part of his throne to await the arrival of the emperor. There he sat, with his patriarchs, cardinals, archbishops, and bishops innumerable; on his right was the Patriarch of Venice [Uncle Enrico Dandolo], and on his left that of Aquileia . . . Then about the third hour there arrived the doge’s barge, in which was the emperor, with the doge and cardinals who had been sent to him on the previous day, and he was led by seven archbishops and canons of the Church in solemn procession to the papal throne. And when he reached it, he threw off the red cloak he was wearing and prostrated himself before the pope and kissed first his feet and then his knees. But the pope rose and, taking the head of the emperor in both his hands, he embraced him and kissed him and made him sit at this right hand and at last spoke the words, ‘Son of the Church, be welcome.’ Then he took him by the hand and led him into the Basilica. And the bells rang, and the Te Deum laudamus was sung. When the ceremony was done, they both left the church together. The Pope mounted his horse, and the emperor held his stirrup and then retired to the Doge’s palace . . . And on the same day the pope sent the emperor many gold and silver jar jars filled with food of various kinds. And he also sent a fatted calf, with the words ‘It is meet that we should make merry and be glad, for my son was dead and is alive again; and was lost and is found.’”
On August 1 the 1177 Treaty of Venice was officially ratified. Alexander III was recognized in writing as the legitimate pope of the Catholic Church and temporal rights of the Papacy over the city of Rome, which Frederick had earlier claimed for himself, confirmed. A fifteen year peace was concluded between Frederick and the Normans of Sicily and a six-year truce between Frederick and the Lombard League agreed to.  The schism within the Catholic Church had been ended and peace on the Italian Peninsula assured, at least for the time being. The apparent success of the Treaty had put Venice in the limelight, solidifying its place as a major player in European affairs. As one historian notes:

The eyes of Western Europe were directed to the city of the lagoons as the meeting-place of the two great powers, spiritual and temporal; the Doge of Venice appeared as the friend and host of both Pope and Emperor; he had borne himself well in that exalted company. The Venetians saw every reason to be satisfied. The presence of the Congress in their city had caused a great influx of strangers—a circumstance which Venice, for obvious considerations, has always extremely enjoyed. Their national vanity had been flattered, and they had not let their guests depart without leaving something behind them.

The peace conference had also highlighted the importance of the Dandolo family. Patriarch Enrico Dandolo, uncle of the future doge, had not only hosted Alexander III at his palace but had also been present at the major turning points in the proceedings; indeed, he had literally been at Alexander’s right hand when the Pope first met with Frederick Barbarossa in front of St. Mark’s Church. We can only assume that his nephew Enrico, the putative head of the Dandolo family and future doge, was figuratively, if not literally, at the right hand of his uncle while the conference was taking place.

Both the Pope and Frederick Barbarossa, basking in the afterglow of the peace conference, hung around Venice for some time after the negotiations were formally concluded on August 14, the Emperor not leaving Venice until September 18; the Pope until October 16. While the Venetians had Frederick at hand they managed to wrangle from him some concessions for themselves; namely, they were granted free passage and safe conduct throughout the Holy Roman Empire. In return, “the subjects of the Empire were to enjoy similar privileges ‘as far as Venice and no farther’—words which Venetian historians are disposed to interpret as recognising Venetian supremacy in the Adriatic,” according to one scholar. Whether or not Frederick felt the same is unclear. 

Uncle Enrico, the Patriarch of Grado also managed to wrangle some favors from Pope Alexander III. It will remembered that Uncle Enrico had earlier been involved in a dispute with the Bishop of Castello, a relative of Doge Pisani, over the introduction of canons regular at the Church of San Salvatore, not far from the Dandolo family compounds. This was the contretemps which had led to the temporary exile from Venice of the entire Dandolo family. The church had burned down ten years earlier and recently had been rebuilt. Uncle Enrico now asked the Pope to bless the high altar and celebrate the first mass in the new church. The Pope was only too glad to oblige. The presence of Alexander was an enormous honor for the church, one which would be remembered for generations to come, and part of the honor could not help but redound to Uncle Enrico and his family.


This was not the end of Uncle Enrico’s interactions with the Pope, however. Two year later, in 1179, Pope Alexander III convened the Third Lateran Council in Rome and Uncle Enrico was chosen as the main delegate from Venice. One of the main goals of the conference was to lay down strict rules regarding the election of future popes and thus avoid the fiasco that had led to the anti-popes foisted upon the church by Frederick Barbarossa. Alexander proposed that only the College of Cardinals could vote on a new pope and that a two-third majority of the College was needed to elect one. This procedure has been in effect down to the present day, the only major change being that in 1970 Paul VI (r. 1963–1978) ruled that only cardinals under the age of eighty could vote. Thus Uncle Enrico has present during one of the turning points in the history of the Papacy. (The Third Lateran Council also declared for the first time that priests who engaged in sodomy should be removed from clerical office; laymen who indulged in such behavior should be excommunicated.

The thousands of sightseers who exit the Church of San Marco each day via the tall middle door may be excused if they do not look down and see, embedded in the floor of the narthex, a medallion of red-and-white marble about one foot square. This medallion marks the location of the throne on which Pope Alexander, flanked by Doge Ziani and Uncle Enrico Dandolo, first greeted Frederick Barbarossa. 

Medallion of red-and-white marble
Like many churches in Venice the Church of San Salvatore, where Pope Alexander, at the prodding of Uncle Enrico, blessed the altar and conducted the first mass, has undergone many metamorphoses. It was rebuilt in the early sixteenth century and a Baroque façade added in 1663. Little if anything remains of the church graced by Pope Alexander. Most visitors today probably come to see the paintings of the Venetian master Titian, most notably the Annunciation on the south wall and Transfiguration, on the high altar, or to venerate the relics of Saint Theodore, Venice's original patron saint, which were moved here in 1256 from the Church of San Marco and are now found in the chapel to the right of the apse. They are probably unaware of the canons regular controversy that convulsed the church during the time of the Dandolos, uncle and nephew, or that Pope Alexander III once said a mass here. 
Church of San Salvatore
Titian’s Annunciation
Sebastiano Ziani, the doge who oversaw the 1177 Treaty of Venice is honored by a sarcophagus and bust on the facade of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore (right). On the left is a statue of St. George, the church’s namesake.



Friday, January 31, 2020

Italy | Venice | Ca’ Rezzonico

Wandered by the Ca’ Rezzonico on the Grand Canal. The palazzo dates back to the 1660s, although it did not achieve its present look until the 1750s. The original owner went bankrupt trying to complete it. After changing hands several times it was bought in the 1880s by Robert “Pen” Barrett Browning, son of Victorian poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with money from his American heiress wife Fannie Coddington, who was said to be enthralled by the elder Brownings, famous poets that they were, but by Pen not so much. He won her hand and dollars only after a fourteen-year courtship. Pen cut a somewhat ambiguous figure. According to one recent author, “Pen Browning was destined to spend his adult life watching people register the thought, ‘That’s what those two poetic geniuses produced?’ but his parents considered him a marvel of aesthetic discernment and religious piety.” The American author and Venetomaniac Henry James, who knew Pen and his father personally and attended poetry reading at the palazzo, weighted in with this:
[The palazzo is]  altogether royal and imperial—but ‘Pen’ isn’t kingly and the train de vie remains to be seen. Gondoliers ushering in friends from pensions won’t fill it out . . . There seems but one way to be sane in this queer world—but there are so many ways of being mad. And a Palazzo-madness is almost as alarming—or as convulsive—as an earthquake—which indeed it essentially resembles.”
Pen’s famous father died here on December 12, 1889. Later Pen was accused of having an affair with a blonde Italian bombshell by the name of Minerva who he had introduced into the household as a housekeeper-cum-model (he dabbled in painting and sculpture). He also installed a menagerie of birds, snakes, and other wildlife. The palazzo had turned into a zoo, both literally and figuratively. Fanny finally got fed up and fled with her dollars, but the two never divorced. Pen sold the Ca’ Rezzonico in 1206 and retired to Asolo, the famous hill town on the mainland, where he died on July 8, 1912. 

The new owners let out the palazzo to, among others, the American composer and entertainer Cole Porter, who rented it in the mid-1920s for $4000 a month, $58,500 a month in today’s money. It was here that he held his notorious bacchanalias that shocked locals and bedazzled the ex-pat community. One frequent guest at his parties was Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia Smith, a.k.a “Bricktop”(due to her red hair), a half-black-half-Irish jazz singer, dancer, and nightclub owner born in a small town in West Virginia who had washed up in Paris, where Porter met her in a nightclub and invited her to the Ca’ Rezzonico to teach his other guests the  Charleston, the latest dance craze from them States.  The palazzo is now a museum and the visitants are much more sedate.
Ca’ Rezzonico (click on photos for enlargements)
Plaque commemorating Robert Browning’s death at Ca’ Rezzonico. It includes the famous line from one of his poems: Open my heart and you will see graved inside of it ‘Italy’.
Ca’ Rezzonico
The Grand Canal from the front of Ca’ Rezzonico
On the top floor of the palazzo is a gallery full of titillating paintings by Venetian artists. No museum in Venice can match it for the sheer amount of mammaries on display. This is just a sampling:

Nightmare date?
The word “louche” springs to mind
What’s going on with the asp?
Some guys have all the luck . . .
You can’t help but envy the little fella
Redheads. What can you say?
Sweet Dreams
Call SVU!
Nice bellybutton!
The guy on the right is obviously a satyr, but what’s with the little cherub on the left?
Aphrodite (a.k.a. Venus) emerging from her clam shell. I was especially intrigued by this painting, since I have visited Aphrodite’s birthplace on Cyprus Island.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Italy | Venice | Origins of the Dandolo Family


For the centuries the Goths, a Germanic people possibly originating in Sweden, had been fighting their way south towards the Mediterranean Sea. Prior to the beginning of the Christian era they had crossed the Baltic Sea into what is now Germany and by the second century the tall, light-skinned, largely blonde-haired marauders, notoriously for their ferocity, were causing havoc all along the northern borders of the Roman Empire. They eventually broke into two groups, the Ostrogoths and Visigoths. In the 390s the first Visigoth ruler, Alaric I, even dared advance on Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine, or East Roman, Empire. His attack on the capital having been thwarted by the Byzantines, he turned his army to the southwest, into Greece, where he sacked Corinth, Sparta, Piraeus (the port of Athens), and other cities. He then set his sights on the western half of the Roman empire and the city of Rome. Utilizing the superb Roman-built roads he and his army soon founded themselves in the ancient region of Veneto, positioned on the broad strip of land between the Adriatic Sea and the Dolomites and other mountains of the Alps to the north. Blessed with numerous rivers, plentiful rainfall, fertile soil, and bountiful forests, its famously industrious people had made this was one of the richest regions in the Roman Empire, dotted with prosperous cities like, Vicenza, Asolo, Patavium (modern-day Padau), Concordia, Altinum (Altino), and Montagnana. The largest city of the region, Aquileia, with a population of 100,000 (200,000 by some estimates), was deemed by the fourth-century Roman poet and scholar Ausonius (c. 310—c. 395) to be one of the nine great cities in the world, mentioned in the same breath as Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and other storied metropolises.
Click on photos for enlargement
Ancient Veneto
In 401 Alaric and his rampaging Goths pillaged Aquileia, but the next year they were defeated by Roman armies and forced to retreat eastward to the Balkans. In 408 they returned and again plundered Aquileia, sending shockwaves of panic throughout Veneto and beyond. Those with the means to do so fled in advance of the Goth onslaughts. Some sought refuge on the islands of the Laguna Veneta, the Venetian Lagoon, where it was hoped the Goths had neither the desire nor means to pursue them. Alaric was indeed focused on Rome, which he finally ransacked in 410. He moved south to Calabria, the toe of the Italian peninsula, planning from there to cross the Mediterranean and invade Africa, but he died the same year, 410, before this plan could be carried out. Meanwhile, some of the people who had fled to the islands of the Venetian Lagoon decided to stay there, perhaps surmising, correctly as it turned out, that Alaric would not be the last barbarian to rampage through their former abodes on the mainland to the north.

The citizens of Veneto at the time of the Goth incursions were a mixed lot. The belt of land between the Adriatic Sea and the mountains to the north served as a bridge between western Europe and the land to the east—the Balkan Peninsula, Greece, Asia Minor, and beyond, and for centuries people from both the Occident and Orient had been traveling through the region. Excellent roads, including the ancient Via Pustumia (built c. 148 b.c. by Roman consul consul Spurius Postumius Albinus Magnus), which began in Aquileia, the capital of Veneto, and continued the whole way across the top of the boot of Italy to Genoa on the western coast of the peninsula, facilitated travel and the relatively easy movement of trade goods. The ports of Veneto at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea attracted travelers and trade from the entire Mediterranean, linking the province with the ports of western Europe, northern Africa, and the Levant. With all the people passing through Veneto it was inevitable that some, attracted by its fertile countryside and rich cities, would decide to stay. Over the centuries this immigration resulted in a rich bouillabaisse of cultures. In addition to the ancient local stock, there were Romans and others from the Italian Peninsula, other Europeans from further west, Greeks, Levantines, north Africans, Arabs, and probably even Mesopotamians and Persians, backwash from the Roman Empires’s many wars in the Mid-East. These were the people who fled Veneto for the relative safely of the islands in the Venetian Lagoon. 

By the mid-fifth century Veneto was threatened once again by invaders. Around 445 Attila became the sole ruler of a confederation of tribes known as the Huns. Like Alaric, he set his sights on Constantinople, but he and his assembled army were unable to breach the formidable Theodosian Land Walls that protected the city. 
Theodosian Land Walls of Constantinople
They did plunder and burn hundreds of cities and towns in Thrace, the region west of Constantinople, before advancing further westward into what is now Germany and France. By the early 450s Attila had turned eastward and crossed the Alps in Veneto. Padua, Altinum, Aquileia, and many other cities and towns were sacked and burned. Aquileia, the capital of Veneto, offered the strongest resistance. According to one tale, Attila was about to abandon his siege when he noticed that the storks that nested in the city had picked up their young in their beaks and flown away to the south. Interpreting this as a portent that the city was doomed, Attila launched another attack. The city was plundered and completely leveled. The residents who had not fled in advance to the safely of the islands in the Lagoon were either slaughtered or enslaved. It was said that for decades later it was hard to find even traces of the once flourished trade center. 
Restored Roman-era columns. The city was completely leveled by Attila the Hun.
Remains of stone wharfs from ancient Aquileia. Canals connected it to the Adriatic Sea,  now 6.5 miles away. 
The Mosaic Floor of the current-day Cathedral of Aquileia dates to the third and fourth century. The original church was destroyed by the Goths and Huns and the floor was apparently buried beneath rubble. It was not rediscovered until the early twentieth century.
The current Cathedral of Aquileia, which dates to the eleventh century, was built on the site of the church destroyed by the Goths and Huns. 
Roman-era mosaics that survived the attacks of Attila and others and have now been restored.
Roman-era mosaics that survived the attacks of Attila and others and have now been restored. 
According to legend, the city of Venice was founded at the stroke of noon on Friday, March 25, a.d. 421. According to the Catholic calendar, it was the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrating the day when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The story goes that around this time three Roman consuls from the city of Padua on the mainland came to a group of islands three miles from the coast known as the Rivoalto, or “high bank”. On slighter higher ground on both sides of a deep channel running through the area a small community had taken root. There were probably some long-time residents, including fishermen, hunters, salt gatherers, and other who eked out a living from the water and marshes of the Lagoon. Some may have been criminals, hiding out from the authorities on the mainland. Most, however, were refugees. In 421 they would have been those who fled from the deprecations of Alaric and the Goths. The area where they settled eventually became known as the Rialto, a corruption of rivoalto. The three consuls had supposedly come to the Rivoalto to set up a trading post and found a church dedicated to St. Giacomo (James), thus sanctioning the small settlement. The church was built just west of the narrowest part of the deep channel separating the islands. The channel became known as the Grand Canal, and eventually the Rialto Bridge was built here. 

Apparently nothing remains of this early church, according to most accounts the first ever in what is now Venice. The current church of St. Giacomo di Rialto, which supposedly stands on the site of the original church founded in 421, was built in the early 1170s and consecrated in 1177. This church was damaged in a fire which ravaged the area in 1514 and was remodeled in 1531 and again in 1599. Perhaps the most notable figure of the church now is the huge clock on the bell tower, supposedly dating to the fifteen century. If you visit the small square in front of the church, however, you can be reasonably sure you are standing in one of the very oldest parts of what eventually became the city of Venice. This early settlement on the Rivoalto islands was not the only community in the Venetian Lagoon, however, and in the years that followed it was nowhere near the most important. Not until 400 years later would it become the Venice that we know today.
The current church of St. Giacomo di Rialto
Later, when they were one of the most prominent families in Venice, the Dandolos would promote the notion that their ancestors were among the leaders of these refugees who had fled the deprecations of the Goths and the Huns in the fifth century and that thus they were one of the founding families of Venice. This was a common claim among the families of Venice who wanted to assert that they did indeed belong to the aristocracy, much like Americans who place great stock in the claim that their ancestors come to the New World on the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth Rock. According to the legend favored by the Dandolos themselves, they were prominent Roman residents of Padua, a city on the mainland twenty-two miles east of the Rivoalto islands, before moving to the islands in the Venetian Lagoon, where they took their rightful place among the elite. This assertion would have put them in the same league with the recognized founders of the first Venetian Lagoon communities, including families like the Contarinis, who by tradition traced their lineage back to Gaius Aurelius Cotta, consul, or chief magistrate of the Roman Republic from 252 b.c and 248 b.c.

The truth is less clear. There is no mention of the Dandolos in the earliest histories of Venice, written in the first half of the eleventh century. A history known as the Venetiarum Historia, dating to the 1360s, does aver that the Dandolos were among a later wave of immigrants who had fled the town of Altinum, on the mainland, in advance of an invasion of yet another band of marauders from the North, the Lombards. Altinum, now the tiny village of Altino, about five miles east of Marco Polo Airport, was once one of the major cities of Veneto. It was linked with the nearby Adriatic Sea by a canal that ran through the center of the city and with the important Veneto city of Aquileia by the Roman road known as the Via Anna. It was also the southern terminus of the Via Claudia Augusta, which ran northeast past Lake Constance in what is now Switzerland to the Danube River, a distance of some 300 miles. Thus Altinum became an important entrepôt for trade between the interior of Europe and the cities of Byzantium, including Constantinople. In the 450s Attila the Hun, following in the wake of the Visigoths, rampaged through Veneto. He razed Aquileia, completing the destruction of began by Alaric, and in 452 sacked the city of Altinum. Many residents fled to the safety of the nearby islands in the Lagoon before the arrival of Attila, but some stayed behind and resumed their lives as best and they could after the Huns had moved on. Some who had fled apparently returned to Altinum once the Hunnish threat had subsided. 

In the wake of the Huns, however, came another people seeking to plunder the rich land of Veneto—the Lombards. Originally from southern Scandinavia, by the first century a.d. they had settled in northern Germany. In the following centuries they drifted southward and by the fifth century occupied the Danube Valley. In the 568 the Lombards crossed the Alps into northern Italy, and for next five decades they would battle the Byzantines for control of Veneto. The Lombard king Rotari, who assumed the throne in 636, completed the conquest of the region by sacking Altinum in 638. 

Watching as the Lombards rampaged through the rest of the region, the residents must have realized that their city was doomed. A legend relates that upon learning of the approach of the Lombards the residents of Altinum held a prayer meeting in the city’s central square. While praying for guidance on how to deal with the threat of the Lombards they saw a flock of birds carrying newborn chicks in their beaks take off and fly south, towards the Lagoon. This was interpreted as a portent. Two leaders of the city, Ario and Aratore, along with several priests, followed the birds to an island about three miles offshore, and the rest of the residents of Altinum soon followed. The legend also relates that when they arrived on the island God appeared in a cloud and told them to build a church where the flock of birds had landed. One of the city gates of Altinum, the city they had just abandoned, was called Turicellum, so they decided to rename the island Torcello. 

There may have been a Roman colony on the island of Torcello—then apparently known by a different name—in the pre-Christian era. The residents were probably fisherman, duck hunters, and others who eked out a living from the sea and the nearby marches. The settlement was probably quite small and may not even been inhabited year-round. Recently uncovered remnants of a Roman pathway dating to the second century a.d. indicate that by then a more substantial settlement may have existed. As we have seen, some refugees from Altinum and other cities of Veneto had fled here during the earlier invasion of the Huns. The latest wave of immigrants fleeing the Lombards included the Dandolo family, ancestors of Enrico Dandolo, at least if we are to believe the Venetiarum Historia. 

The Bishop of Altinum, among the new arrivals on the island, transferred the headquarters of the bishopric from Altinum to Torcello and a year later, in 639, the new church, which according to legend, God had ordered the refugees to build, was dedicated. It was named the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Before leaving Altinum the residents had stripped the city of building materials that might come in handy in their new home, including Roman columns from churches and pagan fanes and other stonework, including even paving stones from the Roman roads that passed by the city. Some of these columns and other stonework may have been included in the new church. The immigrants from Altinum had also brought the relics of their local saint, St Eliodoro, and these were placed in Santa Maria Assunta.

Torcello, now inhabited by industrious former citizens of Altinum, flourished. Although founded 217 years after the quasi-official date of the founding of Venice on, it soon began the largest commercial center in the Lagoon, far surpassing the settlements on the Rivoalto islands in size and importance. Indeed, some consider it “the cradle of Venice” which would help populace the later much larger city. By the the twelfth century the island was home to probably 20,000 to 30,000 people, even 50,000 according to some estimates. By the thirteenth century, however, silt from nearby rivers entering the Lagoon began building up around the island. Trading ships were unable to land and eventually commerce dwindled. Also, some of the silt banks turned into marshland that became infested with malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Torcello became a very unhealthy place to live. By the beginning of the fifteen century many residents had fled to other, more salubrious islands in the Lagoon, including Burano, Murano, and Venice. In 1689 the Bishopric, after 1051 years in Torcello, was transferred to Murano. By the beginning of the nineteen century only some 300 people remained. Less than one hundred people (ten, according to one source) currently reside on the island full-time.

The island of Torcello is located 5.13 miles, as the tern flies, northeast of the water bus stops at the Fondamente Nuova, on the north side of Venice. Several water buses a day go directly to Torcello; more go to the nearby island of Burano, where other water buses can be taken for the short hop to Torcello. From the dock a pathway, most of it brick-paved, along side a canal to the right extends 2050 feet to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. On the left is deserted brush land. Closer to the church are a few restaurants and cafes, including the charmingly named “Throne of Attila” and the famous Locanda Cipriani, which also rents rooms. Just beyond the Locanda Cipriani soars the bulk of the Santa Maria Assunta. The original church that the Altinum refugees built was revised and enlarged in 864 and again around 1008. Apparently the basic outline of the church is unchanged since then. Several elements dating to time when the Dandolos lived here—assuming again that the Venetiarum Historia is correct about the origins for the family—remain, however, most notably the circular baptistery in front of later, larger church. A remnant of the original church, the baptistery is said to date from 639. Possibly members of the Dandolo family were baptized here. 
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta as seen from Burano

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
Baptistery in front of later, larger church said to date from seventh century
The Locanda Cipriani. Queen Elizabeth II, Edward Duke of Windsor and his wife Wallis Simpson, Queen Alexandria of Yugoslavia, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and a host of other Royals have visited here. Other notable guests included Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway (he stayed here when he came to Torcello on duck hunting expeditions; reportedly he himself drained six bottles of wine a night while in residence), John Dos Passos, Igor Stravinsky, Maria Callas, Somerset Maugham, Max Ernst, Nancy Mitford, Margaret Thatcher, and a host of others. 
Inside the church the roof is held up two rows of slender marble columns, nine to each row. Two of the columns, (the second and third on the south side) are said to date from the sixth century and were probably brought from Altinum by the original settlers on the island, perhaps including the Dandolos, along with numerous other smaller columns and capitals in the interior for the church. Behind the high altar is a Roman sarcophagus dating from the second or third century a.d said to contain the relics of St. Eliodoro, also brought from Altinum by the refugees. To the left of the altar, inset in the wall, is the stone tablet recording the consecration of the church in 639. This may be the oldest dated document of Venetian history. In the courtyard in front of the church can be seen the stone chair said to be the throne of Attila the Hun, although its provenance is almost certainly apocryphal. 

Throne of Attila the Hun?
Of course most visitors to Torcello today come not to ponder the historical remnants of Altinum but instead to gape at the magnificent mosaic entitled “The Last Judgement” that covers almost the entire west wall of the interior of the church. Although one of the crowning achievements of Byzantine art, it dates to the late eleventh century, long after the Dandolos would have left Torcello, and thus need not concern us here. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Italy | Venice | Palazzo Mocenigo

Wandered by the Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo, just behind the Church of San Stae on the Grand Canal. The museum also hosts the Study Centre of the History of Textiles, Costumes and Perfume. The museum and study center is housed in the former palazzo of the Mocenigos, one of the most prominent families in Venice for a period of several hundred years. Seven Mocenigos became doges: Tommaso (1414–23), Pietro (1474–76), Giovanni (1478–85), Alvise I (1570–77, Alvise II (1700-1709), Alvise III (1722-32), and Alvise IV (1763). There were two branches of family, one located here at San Stae and another further on down the Grand Canal at San Samuele. A member of the San Samuele branch, Giovanni Mocenigo, was notorious for denouncing irrepressibly hard-core pantheist and unapologetic Hermetic occultist Giordano Bruno to the Catholic Inquisition, which resulted in Bruno being burned at the stake in Paris on Ash Wednesday, February 17th, 1600.
Church of San Stae
Entrance to Palazzo Mocenigo
Costume Exhibit (click on photos for enlargements)
Costume Exhibit
Costume Exhibit

Costume Exhibit
Costume Exhibit
Book of perfume recipes plus raw ingredients for making Perfume. I was of course in Seventh Heaven here.