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 lead the Fourth Crusade, were active participants in the congress that led to the Treaty of Venice and the 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 Building 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 in the narthex of St. Mark’s marking the spot where Doge Ziani met with Pope Alexander III
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
Titians’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 (Giorgio), the church’s namesake.