Lecture Series - Building Venice: Stato da Mar, Stato da Terra

April 19, 2022

If you are unable to attend the live sessions, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lectures to view in your own time (from around four hours after they take place).  Further details on how to register can be found at the end of this newsletter.

Building Venice: Stato da Mar, Stato da Terra

Venice rose from the water of a lagoon in the upper Adriatic. From the fifth century the Adriatic Veneti sought refuge on its scattered islands from the Visigoth, Hun and Longobard invasions that overran the north-eastern Italian peninsula as the Roman world within ‘Italy’ and beyond fell apart. These intrepid people designed and built the foundations of their freedom, their future independence and what became the extraordinary mercantile city of Venice and its republic. They began by using reeds and wood, upgrading to more durable materials as opportunity and wealth allowed. Trade developed which made them wealthy through staples such as salt and a vast range of spices and luxury materials. Canals were dug and churches and palaces were built from stone and marble giving us this extraordinary city.

James Hill will present two lectures on the miracle that is the building of Venice and its Republic. In the first, he explores the city’s origins and the extraordinary innovations that helped create a city ‘on water’. In the second, he explores the remarkable rise of Venice as a trading republic and its mercantile power spread across coastal and island possessions in the easterly Adriatic coast, the eastern Mediterranean and eventually on terraferma across much of northern Italy.

Lecture 1 – Venice emerges: raising the Serenissima

Thursday 12 May 2022 at 11am 

At the beginning of the Christian era rising sea levels covered much of the coastal Veneto. Sea levels later decreased to leave a series of small islands whose natural evolution was aided by deposits from Alpine rivers which flowed into the northern Adriatic. The lagoon, dotted with these small islands, was formed via a kinetic struggle between fresh and salt water, and earth which fed the emerging marshes. From this unpromising beginning, early settlers used what they could as a foundation for rudimentary wooden housing. As Venice slowly arose, its thirst for building materials extended with wood coming from the dense forests of the lower Dolomites to the north, and white stone from the quarries of the Istrian peninsula to the east across the Adriatic coast. By the start of the second millennium, the families of Venice had begun to form their unique system of government presided over by a Doge, simultaneously constructing their palaces along its biggest canal. The Casa-Fondaco (a home warehouse) became the backbone of its emerging economy as the city’s trading operations continued to expand. The city’s prestige was further ‘blessed’ with the dubious acquisition of the relics of St Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, conferring on it a self-proclaimed exalted status, so useful as Venice sought power beyond its lagoon.

Lecture 2 – ‘Where our wares are, there is our house’

Friday 13 May 2022 T 11 am 
Wordsworth wrote that Venice 'held the gorgeous east in fee’. Pride and profit drove the Venetian’s patriotic duty to expand its trade across the seas, connecting Venice both to the Orient and the lucrative markets of northern Europe. From the ninth to the twelfth century Venice developed into a maritime republic defeating its Italian maritime competitors - Pisa, Amalfi and Genoa. It fought and overcame any obstacle in its twin defence of its trading interests, while seeking to secure its independence from outside interference. Her coastal and island possessions varied in size from Pirano near Venice to Famagusta on Cyprus. Some were isolated fortresses, busy naval centres or large settled colonies. The decline of Byzantium, the city’s involvement in the Fourth Crusade, the rise of the Ottomans and Venice’s political relationships with its Italian neighbours were all catalysts in the city’s rise and fall. Yet, the enlightened stewardship of its mainland possessions can still be seen in the cities of Padua, Verona, Brescia and Bergamo.

Format for Lecture

James will give two one-hour illustrated lectures for £23.50. During the lecture you will have the chance to submit written questions which James will answer at the end - if time permits.

You will not need to download any software and the lecture will work in any browser. For the best experience use a desktop or laptop - but it will also work on an iPad or similar tablet. You will be also able to re-watch or watch a recording after the lecture.

Register for Lectures - 12 & 13 May 2022 at 11am

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