Venice has a long and glorious history still alive in many traditions and in the heart of the venetians.
In this post, I would like to tell you something about the history of the Republic of Venice, known as “la Serenissima”. This way, you will be able to better understand the symbols and traditions of Venice during your next visit.
The Republic of Venice was founded in 697, after the decline of the Roman empire, by people escaping from Germanic invasions. People fled from the mainland to the small islands in the lagoon, which were difficult to reach and easy to defend.
Since then, the Republic lasted more than a millennium until 1797. At the beginning, the Republic was under the influence of the Byzantine empire, but it gradually became independent.
During the centuries, the Republic of Venice has dominated the trade routes on the Mediterranean Sea, from Asia to Africa. It became a rich merchant republic, home to a wealthy merchant class.
Along with commercial success, Venice was also a leading military power, whose territories were spreading from north Italy to Greece. The lands, once owned by Venice, belong now to seven different countries: Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Cyprus. It is easy to recognize a land owned by Venice from its universal symbol: the lion of St. Mark.
Venice was also an industrial city. It was famous for its glass works, medicines, trades and shipbuilding industry as well as for its vivid cultural environment.
The Republic of Venice was ruled by an oligarchy of merchants and aristocrats. The Doge was the most important political entity and it was elected for life by members of the Great Council of Venice, the city state’s parliament.
The Doge had to live in Palazzo Ducale, surrounded by a rich ritual, but he had to support himself and his family with his own financial resources.
Venice decline as a powerful maritime republic began with the opening of new commercial routes in the Atlantic.
It is possible to recognize this glorious past everywhere in Venice. The rich buildings along the Grand Canal and in other areas belonged to rich merchant families and the buildings keep the name of the family (e.g. Contarini, Ca’ Dario, Ca’ Rezzonico etc.)
The arsenal was the siege of the shipbuilding factory, where the commercial and military ships of Venice were built. It is still used today by the Italian navy.
Most important of all, Venetians are very proud of their history and particularly fond of their traditions. The Carnival, Redentore or the historic regatta are just few, of the many events, in which you will be able to experience this.