|Brief History||Photos, Part 1|
Venice is known world wide as the city of canals since the city was built on wooden stilts cut from trees from the surrounding area in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Though I have
seen nothing stating why, it was most likely for defense (apparently at one time there were several city islands/forts such as Venice). The narrow canals make it hard for any large war ship to come in
and the small islands are easily defendable. The maze of canals and walk ways most likely further confused any attackers, causing them
to become lost. From this tinny, man made island, an empire was forged. It became a large
maritime power, making its way to Constantinople and all around the Mediterranean, leaving its mark on other civilizations and cultures.
Venice was once a powerful city state which had a trading empire with the east. They controlled many ports of the Mediterranean including the Greekislands of Corfu, Crete, Mykonos,and Lesvos. The city ofNauplion is another good example of a port taken over by the Venetians.
The Venitians were traders but they were also conquerors. From their conquests, the Venetians brought back loot to built up their city. Two great lions from the Acropolis in Athens were pilfered by the Venetians. The Venetians said that they would lend their boats to one of the Crusades (I think second) if the Crusaders attacked Constantinople on the way. When Constantinople fell, the Venetians took the bones of St. Mark and brought them back to Venice and built up a grand cathedral (San Marcos) around them. This cathedral is one of most beautiful I have seen. Unlike many of the other Gothic cathedrals found in Europe, San Marcos was built in the Byzantine style using gold plundered from Constantinople. (This invasion of Constantinople also weakened the Byzantine empire, allowing the Turks to get a foot hold.) The Venetians artists did an extremely good job on San Marcos. The old cathedral is a beautiful building with elegant frescos on both the inside and the outside. But, as you can see San Marcos has a distinctive Byzantine flavor to it.
While the rest of the former Roman Empire, A.K.A. western Europe, was undergoing the dark ages, the Venetians were observing the achievements of the the Byzantine and Persian empires. They took these observations and built a splendid city, with many of these Byzantine and Persian features in it. As a result, they built a city which contained the fine art and arches that was known through out the middle eastern world. It was the artwork and other knowledge that came through Venice that inspired the Renaissance. Venice was also being influenced by the east in its styles and art. El Greco, even came here to study for a few years before moving on to his beloved Toledo After all San Marcos apparently was what put Venice on the map.
With the discovery of the world being round, and the opening of other trading routes to the east, the Vnetian empire finally fell. It was a gradual decline, with people moving back to the mainland, leaving ,behind this beautiful city with its artistic buildings. As my guide book puts it Venice is "surviving on the artificial pulse of tourism"(Rick Steves, Italy 1997). Though the city may be slowly sinking into the lagoon, it still retains much of its grander. the once powerful city state of Venice is no more. They have left their legacy behind for us to admire ; That legacy of course is their splendid buildings and murals that make up the city of city. The buildings of this charming city still echo the once powerful empire that was conquered from this city. Admiral's houses adorn the main canal. Plazas pop up between the narrow streets and romantic canals at random, reminding you of this once thriving metropolis. Though there are the obvious sites such as San Marcos and the canals, the city its self is a site to behold. There are churches around every corner and beautifully designed houses everywhere. If you ever visit the city I suggest wandering around, after all you can't get lost on anisland.
I hope you enjoy the photos. Any comments, please E-mail me,
All photos by John L. Polos
Copyright September 28, 1997