History of Venice

History of Venice: who founded the “City of Canals”, what famous people lived here and historical events happened? From the fall of the Roman Empire to the fall of the Republic in 1797? What sights still make up the glory of Venice and what is a must-see for a traveler?

Venice is the most amazing city in the world: a city on the water. There are no roads, instead of them there are canals! All streets and squares are pedestrian. The only transport – boats and ships, well-known just as vaporetto.

There is not enough land in Venice, and there is negligible greenery: every piece of precious land is occupied by houses, palaces, cathedrals and churches.

The streets are narrow, the squares are perceived as exquisite luxury. The garden, even a couple of trees, ivy decorating the wall – a miracle! On the other hand, there is plenty of water. Which is understandable – it is like a necklace of the largest and most beautiful “Pearl of the Adriatic”.

Venice is the capital of Veneto, a large historical region in northeastern Italy. In the 2nd millennium BC, the Veneti tribe lived here, which gave the name to the region. Then – in the XIII century – this was the name of the expanded beautiful city.

In a living lagoon, regularly updated with fresh sea water during high tides, there are about a hundred inhabited islands. To the west of the city is an uninhabited “dead lagoon” with stagnant water.

A Brief Excursion into Venice History

In Roman times, there were several large cities in this area of ​​Italy – all of them stood on the continent. Aquileia, Opitergius (Oderzo), Tarvisius (Treviso), Patavius ​​(Padua) arose long before the idea of ​​developing the archipelago in the lagoon settled in the minds of the inhabitants.

In 452, the Western Roman Empire was invaded by the Huns, led by the terrible Attila. The invaders killed, robbed and burned. And the inhabitants of the region fled to the islands, where since ancient times there were only huts of fishermen and water bird hunters.

In the early Middle Ages, the population increased due to the inhabitants of Ferrara and Padua, Parma, Florence, Bologna, Pisa, Ravenna. Also fleeing from the barbarians and here finding a safe haven on the water.

In 568, during the invasion of the Germanic tribe of the Lombards, who were distinguished by their particular cruelty towards the local population, Patriarch Peacock fled from Aquileia to the island of Grado with close, sacred relics and accumulated treasures. Priests from other cities of the episcopate moved to the islands in the vast lagoon to the west.

In particular, on Torcello. That is why the year 568 is considered the year of the birth of Venice.

Life on the Islands

The new settlers were in no hurry to return home. After all, a strip of water several kilometers wide served as a reliable defense against enemies, allowing you to feel safe.

At first, the archipelago was under the rule of the Byzantine exarchate in Ravenna. And its head, the duke (“doge” in the Venetian dialect), was appointed by the Byzantine emperor. Over time, the islanders moved to self-government.

In the 7th century, when construction practically stopped in Italy defeated by the barbarians, the stone church of Santa Maria Assunta was erected on Torcello, in “Little Byzantium”. Inside it was decorated with Byzantine mosaics. And the inhabitants of the island of Murano built the church of Santa Maria e Donati.

Both churches were rebuilt in the 11th-12th centuries. But still they are considered the oldest buildings in the city. Although for some reason it does not belong to the main attractions of Venice.

In 811, the Doge moved to the large island of Rialto. The name of which was given by a large duct, in Latin called rivus altus – “deep duct”.

The island city itself bore the same name until the 13th century. It was subsequently inherited by the Rialto Bridge, the main crossing of the canal, today called the Grand Canal.

The first doge to move here was Agnell Parteziak.

The Grand Canal in Venice is a real keeper of history

Under the Shadow of Saint Mark

In the 9th century, the city and its inhabitants were able to get rid of the power of Byzantium, and a key turning point occurred in the history of Venice. Along the way, she also acquired her own heavenly patron, Saint Mark. His relics were secretly removed from Egyptian Alexandria by Venetian merchants.

The arrival of a ship with relics in 828 was a real event. And the winged lion, the symbol of Saint Mark, has since become the emblem of Venice.

IX-X centuries – the time of the construction of a large merchant fleet, and the formation of the Venetian nobility. Not feudal, as everywhere in Europe, but, in fact, handicraft and merchant: from the owners of ships, shipyards, salt works, workshops.

By the 11th century, Venice had become a powerful state in the east of the Mediterranean Sea. The Adriatic Sea was cleared of pirates, and the wealth accumulated as a result of active trade contributed to active construction.

In 1063, under Doge Domenico Contarini, the construction of a new Basilica of St. Mark began. The temple was supposed to be exceptional in terms of richness of design. The architects were given the goal of surpassing Pisa, which began the construction of a grandiose cathedral.

The Basilica of St. Mark

was built not in the Romanesque style, which at that time owned the minds of architects in Europe, but in the Eastern, Byzantine style. Achieved in this case the highest degrees of pretentiousness and decorativeness. The richness of the decoration of the cathedral literally dazzled contemporaries.

Next to the cathedral is the Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale. It was originally a castle surrounded by walls and moats. The building, which has survived to this day, began construction in 1309 and was completed only in the 16th century.

By the way, already in the 12th century, the doge’s powers were significantly limited, and his role in the state structure was reduced to a representative one. In fact, Venice was ruled by the oligarchic Great Council, and the functions of supervision and punishment were entrusted to the Council of Ten.

The members of which had unlimited possibilities in terms of persecution of any of the citizens, but were re-elected once a year. And after that they could answer for their deeds to the fullest extent of the law.

Rise of the Republic

The Venetian nobility built palaces on the water, along the banks of the Grand Canal. There was not enough land: if the main part of the building stands on land, then the facades are kept on piles driven right into the bottom of the canal. And they seem to grow out of the water!

On the canals, the Venetians sailed on gondolas, long boats of a special design. Not all were black and had the same size. Legislatively, the dimensions were limited only in the 18th century, deciding that the length should be 11 meters and the width – 1 m 40 cm.

The nose of the boats is decorated with a special top, ferro, – this is the highest point of the gondola, looking at which the helmsman can determine whether the boat will pass under the next bridge

Under Doge Enrico Dandolo (1107-1205), Venice experienced a real flourishing. Dandolo turned out to be a far-sighted and far-sighted diplomat who managed to use an entire army of French crusaders for the benefit of the city. First, they captured the rich Zara (modern Zadar), and then stormed and sacked Constantinople.

By dividing the booty, La Serenissima received valuables from the Byzantine capital. Including four bronze horses – they were installed on the Basilica of St. Mark!

In addition, she got a huge piece of the Byzantine “pie” in the form of possessions in Greece. The island of Crete also became Venetian.

Dandolo died at the age of 98 in Constantinople. The Doge is buried in the Hagia Sophia.


In the 14th century, Venice successfully fought against its main commercial competitor, Genoa, and acquired the island of Corfu. In Italy, the affairs of the oligarchic republic were also going well. The city of Treviso directly became part of the state, Padua and Ferrara became dependent on the Venetian policy.

In the 15th century, the lion of Saint Mark spread its wings over Verona and Vicenza, Bergamo and Brescia.

Naturally, in the “City of Canals” at that time, one after another, the richest palaces were built. Palazzo (Ca) d’Oro, Foscari, Cavalli Franchetti, Contarini Pheasant…

In the middle of the 15th century, the construction of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, an imposing Gothic church (San Polo district), was completed. Today it houses one of Titian’s most famous paintings, Assunta. And the great Venetian artist himself is buried.


In the XVI century, the power of Venice gradually declines. The Ottoman Empire, advancing deep into Europe, takes away from it part of its possessions in Greece and the Adriatic. And the reorientation of trade flows to the newly discovered America threatens the Venetian merchants with future bankruptcy.

Soon powerful European countries: France and Spain will seriously limit the influence of Venice in Italy.

But while the republic squanders money. Completes the construction of the Doge’s Palace, rebuilds the cathedral on the island of San Giorgio (Antonio Palladio). Builds the first stone bridge over the Grand Canal, Rialto. Orders all new works by Tintoretto and Titian, Veronese. It multiplies and luxuriously finishes all new palazzos.

In the 17th century, money becomes scarce. Private individuals are still building sumptuous palazzos (Pesaro and Rezzonico of similar architecture by Baldassare Longena), but the republic itself only has enough funds for Santa Maria della Salute, a grandiose cathedral in the Dorsoduro area. In the 18th century, the republic withdrew from big politics, becoming one of the centers of entertainment, the second Paris.

Venetian carnivals gather knowledge from all over Europe, theatrical art flourished (Carlo Goldoni), several music schools were opened

In May 1797, the French troops of General Bonaparte for the first time in history captured the city on the water, putting an end to the history of the brilliant Republic.

Interesting places in Venice

The main tourist places of the “City of Canals” are quite simple to list. At the same time, however, several dozens of excellent palaces are guaranteed to remain out of tourist attention, each of which is worthy of a separate visit.

A lot of old churches, behind the facade of any of which hides a wonderful and eventful history. As well as the squares and streets that trampled the feet of not just famous, iconic people.

However, who cares? So, the main attractions of beautiful Venice:

  • The Grand Canal is the main waterway of the “City of Canals”. Whose traffic can do honor to the metropolis! Sometimes you wonder how so many waterfowl manage not to collide
  • the famous humpbacked Rialto Bridge – the first stone bridge across the canal. And, by the way, one of only four existing land crossings across the Grand Canal!
  • Doge’s Palace – the chic palace of the oligarchic rulers, Venice, the meeting place of her councils
    the Basilica of San Marco, which was not always the main cathedral of the Republic. The church, which anyone can get into today and for free, however, will not impress everyone with its interior. Too much heavy Byzantine luxury. And there is not enough space, which, probably, should be present in the Temple of God?!
  • Piazza and Piazzetta San Marco, which are not missed by any foreign tourist. And if on the piazzetta, the one closer to the water, there is still enough space, then on the main square – just dodge.
  • Campanile – the bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica, alas, not original, it was built at the beginning of the 20th century. What doesn’t prevent tourists from crowding in line at the entrance. No wonder, because the views from the top are truly extraordinary!


  • Cathedral of Santa Maria della Salute – a wonderful example of the Venetian Baroque
  • Church of San Giorgio Maggiore – one of the two creations of the great Antonio Palladio in Venice
    the magnificent Frari, a gothic red-brick basilica. Dominant – and not only high-rise – of the Venetian district of San Polo
  • Scuola San Rocco, whose walls and ceilings were painted by Tintoretto for more than 20 years. The painter is not simple – including, and character. And he wrote in a manner that may well be considered foreshadowing impressionism and all that denial of the classics that happened at once at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • the island of Murano, where the world-famous glass is produced. And where are some of the oldest city buildings and churches
  • the island of Burano, famous for its colorful houses and lace. The manner of local residents to constantly renovate houses, using bright and saturated colors, has earned him a lot of fans. But tourists are reluctant to buy lace products – a little expensive.


The Venice Carnival is perhaps the main cultural event of the month of February in Europe. Residents and guests wear masks – those who are richer – whole costumes. The bulk of tourists go to Venice in February in the hope of having a great time.

The city occupies 118 large and small islands. Connected by water-tram bridges (vaporetto boats) and ferry (traghetto) crossings. Moreover, the banks of the main water artery of Venice, the Grand Canal, are connected by only 4 bridges!

There are many nicknames for Venice. The most common: “Serenissima” (“The Brightest”), “City of Canals”, “Floating City”, “City on the Water”.

Today, about 200,000 people officially live in Venice. In fact, much less!

How to Get There

The main Venetian station, known simply as Santa Lucia, is located within the city limits, and has direct connections to most major cities in Europe. Naturally, and Italy!

Thrifty European tourists have long used this feature. And they do not arrive directly at the Marco Polo airport, but, for example, at the Antonio Canova airport, near Treviso. After all, it’s cheaper – low-cost airlines land there!

The major international airport Marco Polo is located on the continent. And it is connected to Venice by bus, rail and water (boats) service.

Yes, you will have to travel another 1.5 hours to Venice: first by bus to Treviso station and then by train. But it’s not too much of an inconvenience.

In addition, there is a chance to see another extremely pretty city in the Veneto region. See which here so specifically few people risk!

Near the Santa Lucia station, in Piazzale Roma, there is also a central bus terminal. Where transport from the continent arrives.

There are paid parking lots for guests’ cars nearby. But they are expensive!

It is better to leave your car in giant car parks next to the ferry terminal, Tronchetto. Or even somewhere near Mestre – it will turn out much cheaper.

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