Venetian Life
W. D. Howells

Part 3 out of 5

distance to Malamocco.

This dirty little village was the capital of the Venetian islands before
King Pepin and his Franks burned it, and the shifting sands of empire
gathered solidly about the Rialto in Venice. It is a thousand years since
that time, and Malamocco has long been given over to fishermen's families
and the soldiers of the forts. We found the latter lounging about the
unwholesome streets; and the former seated at their thresholds, engaged in
those pursuits of the chase which the use of a fine-tooth comb would
undignify to mere slaughter.

There is a church at Malamocco, but it was closed, and we could not find
the sacristan; so we went to the little restaurant, as the next best
place, and demanded something to eat. What had the padrone? He answered
pretty much to the same effect as the innkeeper in "Don Quixote," who told
his guests that they could have any thing that walked on the earth, or
swam in the sea, or flew in the air. We would take, then, some fish, or a
bit of veal, or some mutton chops. The padrone sweetly shrugged the
shoulders of apology. There was nothing of all this, but what would we say
to some liver or gizzards of chickens, fried upon the instant and ready
the next breath? No, we did not want them; so we compromised on some ham
fried in a batter of eggs, and reeking with its own fatness. The truth is,
it was a very bad little lunch we made, and nothing redeemed it but the
amiability of the smiling padrone and the bustling padrona, who served us
as kings and princes. It was a clean hostelry, though, and that was a
merit in Malamocco, of which the chief modern virtue is that it cannot
hold you long. No doubt it was more interesting in other times. In the
days when the Venetians chose it for their capital, it was a walled town,
and fortified with towers. It has been more than once inundated by the
sea, and it might again be washed out with advantage.

In the spring, two years after my visit to Malamocco, we people in Casa
Falier made a long-intended expedition to the island of Torcello, which is
perhaps the most interesting of the islands of the lagoons. We had talked
of it all winter, and had acquired enough property there to put up some
light Spanish castles on the desolate site of the ancient city, that, so
many years ago, sickened of the swamp air and died. A Count from Torcello
is the title which Venetian persiflage gives to improbable noblemen; and
thus even the pride of the dead Republic of Torcello has passed into
matter of scornful jest, as that of the dead Republic of Venice may
likewise in its day.

When we leave the riva of Casa Falier, we pass down the Grand Canal, cross
the Basin of St. Mark, and enter one of the narrow canals that intersect
the Riva degli Schiavoni, whence we wind and deviate southwestward till we
emerge near the church of San Giovanni e Paolo, on the Fondamenta Nuove.
On our way we notice that a tree, hanging over the water from a little
garden, is in full leaf, and at Murano we see the tender bloom of peaches
and the drifted blossom of cherry-trees.

As we go by the Cemetery of San Michele, Piero the gondolier and Giovanna
improve us with a little solemn pleasantry.

"It is a small place," says Piero, "but there is room enough for all
Venice in it."

"It is true," assents Giovanna, "and here we poor folks become landholders
at last."

At Murano we stop a moment to look at the old Duomo, and to enjoy its
quaint mosaics within, and the fine and graceful spirit of the
_apsis_ without. It is very old, this architecture; but the eternal
youth of the beautiful belongs to it, and there is scarce a stone fallen
from it that I would replace.

The manufacture of glass at Murano, of which the origin is so remote, may
be said to form the only branch of industry which still flourishes in the
lagoons. Muranese beads are exported to all quarters in vast quantities,
and the process of making them is one of the things that strangers feel
they must see when visiting Venice. The famous mirrors are no longer made,
and the glass has deteriorated in quality, as well as in the beauty of the
thousand curious forms it took. The test of the old glass, which is now
imitated a great deal, is its extreme lightness. I suppose the charming
notion that glass was once wrought at Murano of such fineness that it
burst into fragments if poison were poured into it, must be fabulous. And
yet it would have been an excellent thing in the good old toxicological
days of Italy; and people of noble family would have found a sensitive
goblet of this sort as sovereign against the arts of venomers as an
exclusive diet of boiled eggs. The city of Murano has dwindled from thirty
to five thousand in population. It is intersected by a system of canals
like Venice, and has a Grand Canal of its own, of as stately breadth as
that of the capital. The finer houses are built on this canal; but the
beautiful palaces, once occupied in _villeggiatura_ by the noble
Venetians, are now inhabited by herds of poor, or converted into glass-
works. The famous Cardinal Bembo and other literati made the island their
retreat, and beautified it with gardens and fountains. Casa Priuli in that
day was, according to Venetian ideas, "a terrestrial Paradise," and a
proper haunt of "nymphs and demi-gods." But the wealth, the learning, and
the elegance of former times, which planted "groves of Academe" at Murano,
have passed away, and the fair pleasure-gardens are now weed-grown wastes,
or turned into honest cabbage and potato patches. It is a poor, dreary
little town, with an inexplicable charm in its decay. The city arms are
still displayed upon the public buildings (for Murano was ruled,
independently of Venice, by its own council); and the heraldic cock, with
a snake in its beak, has yet a lusty and haughty air amid the ruin of the

The way in which the spring made itself felt upon the lagoon was full of
curious delight. It was not so early in the season that we should know the
spring by the first raw warmth in the air, and there was as yet no
assurance of her presence in the growth--later so luxuriant--of the coarse
grasses of the shallows. But somehow the spring was there, giving us new
life with every breath. There were fewer gulls than usual, and those we
saw sailed far overhead, debating departure. There was deeper languor in
the laziness of the soldiers of finance, as they lounged and slept upon
their floating custom houses in every channel of the lagoons; and the
hollow voices of the boatmen, yelling to each other as their wont is, had
an uncommon tendency to diffuse themselves in echo. Over all, the heavens
had put on their summer blue, in promise of that delicious weather which
in the lagoons lasts half the year, and which makes every other climate
seem niggard of sunshine and azure skies. I know we have beautiful days at
home--days of which the sumptuous splendor used to take my memory with
unspeakable longing and regret even in Italy;--but we do not have, week
after week, month after month, that

"Blue, unclouded weather,"

which, at Venice, contents all your senses, and makes you exult to be
alive with the inarticulate gladness of children, or of the swallows that
there all day wheel and dart through the air, and shriek out a delight too
intense and precipitate for song.

The island of Torcello is some five miles away from Venice, in the
northern lagoon. The city was founded far back in the troubled morning of
Christian civilization, by refugees from barbarian invasion, and built
with stones quarried from the ruins of old Altinum, over which Attila had
passed desolating. During the first ages of its existence Torcello enjoyed
the doubtful advantage of protection from the Greek emperors, but fell
afterward under the domination of Venice. In the thirteenth century the
_debris_ of the river that emptied into the lagoon there began to
choke up the wholesome salt canals, and to poison the air with swampy
malaria; and in the seventeenth century the city had so dwindled that the
Venetian _podestà_ removed his residence from the depopulated island
to Burano,--though the bishopric established immediately after the
settlement of the refugees at Torcello continued there till 1814, to the
satisfaction, no doubt, of the frogs and mosquitoes that had long
inherited the former citizens.

I confess that I know little more of the history of Torcello than I found
in my guide-book. There I read that the city had once stately civic and
religious edifices, and that in the tenth century the Emperor
Porphorygenitus called it "_magnum emporium Torcellanorum_." The
much-restored cathedral of the seventh century, a little church, a
building supposed to have been the public palace, and other edifices so
ruinous and so old that their exact use in other days is not now known,
are all that remain of the _magnum emporium_, except some lines of
moldering wall that wander along the canals, and through pastures and
vineyards, in the last imbecile stages of dilapidation and decay. There is
a lofty bell-tower, also, from which, no doubt, the Torcellani used to
descry afar off the devouring hordes of the barbarians on the main-land,
and prepare for defense. As their city was never actually invaded, I am at
a loss to account for the so-called Throne of Attila, which stands in the
grass-grown piazza before the cathedral; and I fear that it may really
have been after all only the seat which the ancient Tribunes of Torcello
occupied on public occasions. It is a stone arm-chair, of a rude
stateliness, and though I questioned its authenticity, I went and sat down
in it a little while, to give myself the benefit of a doubt in case Attila
had really pressed the same seat.

As soon as our gondola touched the grassy shores at Torcello, Giovanna's
children, Beppi and Nina, whom we had brought with us to give a first
experience of trees and flowers and mother earth, leaped from the boat and
took possession of land and water. By a curious fatality the little girl,
who was bred safely amid the hundred canals of Venice, signalized her
absence from their perils by presently falling into the only canal in
Torcello, whence she was taken dripping, to be confined at a farm-house
during the rest of our stay. The children were wild with pleasure, being
absolutely new to the country, and ran over the island, plucking bouquets
of weeds and flowers by armsful. A rake, borne afield upon the shoulder of
a peasant, afterwhile fascinated the Venetian Beppi, and drew him away to
study its strange and wonderful uses.

The simple inhabitants of Torcello came forth with gifts, or rather
bargains, of flowers, to meet their discoverers, and, in a little while,
exhausted our soldi. They also attended us in full force when we sat down
to lunch,--the old, the young men and maidens, and the little children,
all alike sallow, tattered, and dirty. Under these circumstances, a sense
of the idyllic and the patriarchal gave zest to our collation, and moved
us to bestow, in a splendid manner, fragments of the feast among the poor
Torcellani. Knowing the abstemiousness of Italians everywhere, and seeing
the hungry fashion in which the islanders clutched our gifts and devoured
them, it was our doubt whether any one of them had ever experienced
perfect repletion. I incline to think that a chronic famine gnawed their
entrails, and that they never filled their bellies but with draughts of
the east wind disdained of Job. The smaller among them even scrambled with
the dog for the bones, until a little girl was bitten, when a terrific
tumult arose, and the dog was driven home by the whole multitude. The
children presently returned. They all had that gift of beauty which Nature
seldom denies to the children of their race; but being, as I said, so
dirty, their beauty shone forth chiefly from their large soft eyes. They
had a very graceful, bashful archness of manner, and they insinuated
beggary so winningly, that it would have been impossible for hungry people
to deny them. As for us, having lunched, we gave them every thing that
remained, and went off to feast our enthusiasm for art and antiquity in
the cathedral.

Of course, I have not the least intention of describing it. I remember
best among its wonders the bearing of certain impenitents in one of the
mosaics on the walls, whom the earnest early artist had meant to represent
as suffering in the flames of torment. I think, however, I have never seen
complacence equal to that of these sinners, unless it was in the
countenances of the seven fat kine, which, as represented in the vestibule
of St. Mark's, wear an air of the sleepiest and laziest enjoyment, while
the seven lean kine, having just come up from the river, devour steaks
from their bleeding haunches. There are other mosaics in the Torcello
cathedral, especially those in the _apsis_ and in one of the side
chapels, which are in a beautiful spirit of art, and form the widest
possible contrast to the eighteenth-century high altar, with its insane
and ribald angels flying off at the sides, and poising themselves in the
rope-dancing attitudes favored by statues of heavenly persons in the
decline of the Renaissance. The choir is peculiarly built, in the form of
a half-circle, with seats rising one above another, as in an amphitheatre,
and a flight of steps ascending to the bishop's seat above all,--after the
manner of the earliest Christian churches. The partition parapet before
the high altar is of almost transparent marble, delicately and quaintly
sculptured with peacocks and lions, as the Byzantines loved to carve them;
and the capitals of the columns dividing the naves are of infinite
richness. Part of the marble pulpit has a curious bass-relief, said to be
representative of the worship of Mercury; and indeed the Torcellani owe
much of the beauty of their Duomo to unrequited antiquity. (They came to
be robbed in their turn: for the opulence of their churches was so great
that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the severest penalties had
to be enacted against those who stole from them. No one will be surprised
to learn that the clergy themselves participated in these spoliations; but
I believe no ecclesiastic was ever lashed in the piazza, or deprived of an
eye or a hand for his offense.) The Duomo has the peculiar Catholic
interest, and the horrible fascination, of a dead saint's mortal part in a
glass case.

An arcade runs along the facade of the cathedral, and around the side and
front of the adjoining church of Santa Fosca, which is likewise very old.
But we found nothing in it but a dusty, cadaverous stench, and so we came
away and ascended the campanile. From the top of this you have a view of
the lagoon, in all its iridescent hues, and of the heaven-blue sea. Here,
looking toward the main-land, I would have been glad to experience the
feelings of the Torcellani of old, as they descried the smoking advance of
Huns or Vandals. But the finer emotions are like gifted children, and are
seldom equal to occasions. I am ashamed to say that mine got no further
than Castle Bluebeard, with Lady Bluebeard's sister looking out for her
brothers, and tearfully responding to Lady B.'s repeated and agonized
entreaty, "O sister, do you see them yet?"

The old woman who had opened the door of the campanile was surprised into
hospitality by the sum of money we gave her, and took us through her house
(which was certainly very neat and clean) into her garden, where she
explained the nature of many familiar trees and shrubs to us poor

We went back home over the twilight lagoon, and Giovanna expressed the
general feeling when she said: "_Torsello xe beo--no si pol negar--la
campagna xe bea; ma, benedetta la mia Venezia!_"

(The country is beautiful--it can't be denied--Torcello is beautiful; but
blessed be my Venice!)

The panorama of the southern lagoon is best seen in a voyage to Chioggia,
or Ciozza, the quaint and historic little city that lies twenty miles away
from Venice, at one of the ports of the harbor. The Giant Sea-wall, built
there by the Republic in her decline, is a work of Roman grandeur, which
impresses you more deeply than any other monument of the past with a sense
of her former industrial and commercial greatness. Strips of village
border the narrow Littorale all the way to Chioggia, and on the right lie
the islands of the lagoon. Chioggia itself is hardly more than a village,
--a Venice in miniature, like Murano, with canals and boats and bridges.
But here the character of life is more amphibious than in brine-bound
Venice; and though there is no horse to be seen in the central streets of
Chioggia, peasants' teams penetrate her borders by means of a long bridge
from the main-land.

Of course Chioggia has passed through the customary vicissitudes of
Italian towns, and has been depopulated at divers times by pestilence,
famine, and war. It suffered cruelly in the war with the Genoese in 1380,
when it was taken by those enemies of St. Mark; and its people were so
wasted by the struggle that the Venetians, on regaining it, were obliged
to invite immigration to repopulate its emptiness. I do not know how great
comfort the Chiozzotti of that unhappy day took in the fact that some of
the earliest experiments with cannon were made in the contest that
destroyed them, but I can hardly offer them less tribute than to mention
it here. At present the place is peopled almost entirely by sailors and
fishermen, whose wives are more famous for their beauty than their
amiability. Goldoni's "Baruffe Chiozzotte" is an amusing and vivid picture
of the daily battles which the high-spirited ladies of the city fought in
the dramatist's [Footnote: Goldoni's family went from Venice to Chioggia
when the dramatist was very young. The description of his life there form
some of the most interesting chapters of his Memoirs.] time, and which are
said to be of frequent occurrence at this day. The Chiozzotte are the only
women of this part of Italy who still preserve a semblance of national
costume; and this remnant of more picturesque times consists merely of a
skirt of white, which, being open in front, is drawn from the waist over
the head and gathered in the hand under the chin, giving to the flashing
black eyes and swarthy features of the youthful wearer a look of very
dangerous slyness and cunning. The dialect of the Chiozzotti is said to be
that of the early Venetians, with an admixture of Greek, and it is
infinitely more sweet and musical than the dialect now spoken in Venice.
"Whether derived," says the author of the "Fiore di Venezia," alluding to
the speech of these peculiar people, "from those who first settled these
shores, or resulting from other physical and moral causes, it is certain
that the tone of the voice is here more varied and powerful: the mouth is
thrown wide open in speaking; a passion, a lament mingles with laughter
itself, and there is a continual _ritornello_ of words previously
spoken. But this speech is full of energy; whoever would study brief and
strong modes of expression should come here."

Chioggia was once the residence of noble and distinguished persons, among
whom was the painter Rosalba Carrera, famed throughout Europe for her
crayon miniatures; and the place produced in the sixteenth century the
great maestro Giuseppe Zarlino, "who passes," says Cantù, "for the
restorer of modern music," and "whose 'Orfeo' heralded the invention of
the musical drama." This composer claimed for his birthplace the doubtful
honor of the institution of the order of the Capuchins, which he declared
to have been founded by Fra Paolo (Giovanni Sambi) of Chioggia. There is
not much now to see in poor little Chioggia except its common people, who,
after a few minutes' contemplation, can hardly interest any one but the
artist. There are no dwellings in the town which approach palatial
grandeur, and nothing in the Renaissance churches to claim attention,
unless it be an attributive Bellini in one of them. Yet if you have the
courage to climb the bell-tower of the cathedral, you get from its summit
the loveliest imaginable view of many-purpled lagoon and silver-flashing
sea; and if you are sufficiently acquainted with Italy and Italians to
observe a curious fact, and care to study the subject, you may note the
great difference between the inhabitants of Chioggia and those of
Palestrina,--an island divided from Chioggia by a half mile of lagoon, and
by quite different costume, type of face, and accent.

Just between Chioggia and the sea lies the lazy town of Sottomarina, and I
should say that the population of Sottomarina chiefly spent its time in
lounging up and down the Sea-wall; while that of Chioggia, when not
professionally engaged with the net, gave its leisure to playing
_mora_ [Footnote: Mora is the game which the Italians play with their
fingers, one throwing out two, three, or four fingers, as the case may be,
and calling the number at the same instant. If (so I understood the game)
the player mistakes the number of fingers he throws out, he loses; if he
hits the number with both voice and fingers he wins. It is played with
tempestuous interest, and is altogether fiendish in appearance.] in the
shade, or pitilessly pursuing strangers, and offering them boats. For my
own part, I refused the subtlest advances of this kind which were made me
in Chiozzotto, but fell a helpless prey to a boatman who addressed me in
some words of wonderful English, and then rowed me to the Sea-wall at
about thrice the usual fare.

These primitive people are bent, in their out-of-the-world, remote way,
upon fleecing the passing stranger quite as earnestly as other Italians,
and they naïvely improve every occasion for plunder. As we passed up the
shady side of their wide street, we came upon a plump little blond boy,
lying asleep on the stones, with his head upon his arm; and as no one was
near, the artist of our party stopped to sketch the sleeper. Atmospheric
knowledge of the fact spread rapidly, and in a few minutes we were the
centre of a general assembly of the people of Chioggia, who discussed us,
and the artist's treatment of her subject, in open congress. They handed
round the airy chaff as usual, but were very orderly and respectful,
nevertheless,--one father of the place quelling every tendency to tumult
by kicking his next neighbor, who passed on the penalty till, by this
simple and ingenious process, the guilty cause of the trouble was
infallibly reached and kicked at last. I placed a number of soldi in the
boy's hand, to the visible sensation of the crowd, and then we moved away
and left him, heading, as we went, a procession of Chiozzotti, who could
not make up their minds to relinquish us till we took refuge in a church.
When we came out the procession had disappeared, but all round the church
door, and picturesquely scattered upon the pavement in every direction,
lay boys asleep, with their heads upon their arms. As we passed laughing
through the midst of these slumberers, they rose and followed us with
cries of "_Mi tiri zu! Mi tiri zu!_" (Take me down! Take me down!)
They ran ahead, and fell asleep again in our path, and round every corner
we came upon a sleeping boy; and, indeed, we never got out of that
atmosphere of slumber till we returned to the steamer for Venice, when
Chioggia shook off her drowsy stupor, and began to tempt us to throw soldi
into the water, to be dived for by her awakened children.



Among the pleasantest friends we made in Venice were the monks of the
Armenian Convent, whose cloistral buildings rise from the glassy lagoon,
upon the south of the city, near a mile away. This bulk

"Of mellow brick-work on an isle of bowers"

is walled in with solid masonry from the sea, and encloses a garden-court,
filled with all beautiful flowers, and with the memorable trees of the
East; while another garden encompasses the monastery itself, and yields
those honest fruits and vegetables which supply the wants of the well-
cared-for mortal part of the good brothers. The island is called San
Lazzaro, and the convent was established in 1717 by a learned and devoted
Armenian priest named Mechithar, from whom the present order of monks is
called Mechitharist. He was the first who formed the idea of educating a
class of priests to act as missionaries among the Armenian nation in the
East, and infuse into its civil and religious decay the life of European
piety and learning. He founded at Sebaste, therefore, a religious order of
which the seat was presently removed to Constantinople, where the friars
met with so much persecution from Armenian heterodoxy that it was again
transferred, and fixed at Modone in Morea. That territory falling into the
hands of the Turks, the Mechitharists fled with their leader to Venice,
where the Republic bestowed upon them a waste and desolate island, which
had formerly been used as a place of refuge for lepers; and the monks made
it the loveliest spot in all the lagoons.

The little island has such a celebrity in travel and romance, that I feel
my pen catching in the tatters of a threadbare theme. And yet I love the
place and its people so well, that I could scarcely pass it without
mention. Every tourist who spends a week in Venice goes to see the
convent, and every one is charmed with it and the courteous welcome of the
fathers. Its best interest is the intrinsic interest attaching to it as a
seat of Armenian culture; but persons who relish the cheap sentimentalism
of Byron's life, find the convent all the more entertaining from the fact
that he did the Armenian language the favor to study it there, a little.
The monks show his autograph, together with those of other distinguished
persons, and the Armenian Bible which he used to read. I understood from
one of the friars, Padre Giacomo Issaverdanz, that the brothers knew
little or nothing of Byron's celebrity as a poet while he studied with
them, and that his proficiency as an Armenian scholar was not such as to
win high regard from them.

I think most readers who have visited the convent will recall the pleasant
face and manners of the young father mentioned, who shows the place to
English-speaking travelers, and will care to know that Padre Giacomo was
born at Smyrna, and dwelt there in the family of an English lady, till he
came to Venice, and entered on his monastic life at San Lazzaro.

He came one morning to breakfast with us, bringing with him Padre Alessio,
a teacher in the Armenian College in the city. As for the latter, it was
not without a certain shock that I heard Mesopotamia mentioned as his
birthplace, having somehow in childhood learned to regard that formidable
name as little better than a kind of profane swearing. But I soon came to
know Padre Alessio apart from his birthplace, and to find him very
interesting as a scholar and an artist. He threw a little grace of poetry
around our simple feast, by repeating some Armenian verses,--grace all the
more ethereal from our entire ignorance of what the verses meant. Our
breakfast-table talk wrought to friendship the acquaintance made some time
before, and the next morning we received the photograph of Padre Giacomo,
and the compliments of the Orient, in a heaped basket of ripe and luscious
figs from the garden of the Convent San Lazzaro. When, in turn, we went to
visit him at the convent, we had experience of a more curious oriental
hospitality. Refreshments were offered to us as to friends, and we lunched
fairily upon little dishes of rose leaves, delicately preserved, with all
their fragrance, in a "lucent sirup." It seemed that this was a common
conserve in the East; but we could hardly divest ourselves of the notion
of sacrilege, as we thus fed upon the very most luxurious sweetness and
perfume of the soul of summer. Pleasant talk accompanied the dainty
repast,--Padre Giacomo recounting for us some of his adventures with the
people whom he had to show about the convent, and of whom many were
disappointed at not finding a gallery or museum, and went away in extreme
disgust; and relating with a sly, sarcastic relish that blent curiously
with his sweetness and gentleness of spirit, how some English people once
came with the notion that Lord Byron was an Armenian; how an unhappy
French gentleman, who had been robbed in Southern Italy, would not be
parted a moment from a huge bludgeon which he carried in his hand, and
(probably disordered by his troubles) could hardly be persuaded from
attacking the mummy which is in one of the halls; how a sharp, bustling,
go-ahead Yankee rushed in one morning, rubbing his hands, and demanding,
"Show me all you can in five minutes."

As a seat of learning, San Lazzaro is famed throughout the Armenian world,
and gathers under its roof the best scholars and poets of that nation. In
the printing-office of the convent books are printed in some thirty
different languages; and a number of the fathers employ themselves
constantly in works of translation. The most distinguished of the Armenian
literati now living at San Lazzaro is the Reverend Father Gomidas
Pakraduni, who has published an Armenian version of "Paradise Lost," and
whose great labor the translation of Homer, has been recently issued from
the convent press. He was born at Constantinople of an ancient and
illustrious family, and took religious orders at San Lazzaro, where he was
educated, and where for twenty-five years after his consecration he held
the professorship of his native tongue. He devoted himself especially to
the culture of the ancient Armenian, and developed it for the expression
of modern ideas, he made exhaustive study of the vast collection of old
manuscripts at San Lazzaro, and then went to Paris in pursuance of his
purpose, and acquainted himself with all the treasures of Armenian
learning in the Bibliothèque Royale. He became the first scholar of the
age in his national language, and acquired at the same time a profound
knowledge of Latin and Greek.

Returning to Constantinople, Father Pakraduni, whose fame had preceded
him, took up his residence in the family of a noble Armenian, high in the
service of the Turkish government; and while assuming the care of
educating his friend's children, began those labors of translation which
have since so largely employed him. He made an Armenian version of Pindar,
and wrote a work on Rhetoric, both of which were destroyed by fire while
yet in the manuscript. He labored, meanwhile, on his translation of the
Iliad,--a youthful purpose which he did not see fulfilled till the year
1860, when he had already touched the Psalmist's limit of life. In this
translation he revived with admirable success an ancient species of
Armenian verse, which bears, in flexibility and strength, comparison with
the original Greek. Another of his great labors was the production of an
Armenian Grammar, in which he reduced to rule and order the numerous forms
of his native tongue, never before presented by one work in all its
eastern variety.

Padre Giacomo, to whose great kindness I am indebted for a biographic and
critical notice in writing of Father Pakraduni, considers the epic poem by
that scholar a far greater work than any of his philological treatises,
profound and thorough as they are. When nearly completed, this poem
perished in the same conflagration which consumed the Pindar and the
Rhetoric; but the poet patiently began his work anew, and after eight
years gave his epic of twenty books and twenty-two thousand verses to the
press. The hero of the poem is Haïk, the first Armenian patriarch after
the flood, and the founder of a kingly dynasty. Nimrod, the great hunter,
drunk with his victories, declares himself a god, and ordains his own
worship throughout the Orient. Haïk refuses to obey the commands of the
tyrant, takes up arms against him, and finally kills him in battle. "In
the style of this poem," writes Padre Giacomo, "it is hard to tell whether
to admire most its richness, its energy, its sweetness, its melancholy,
its freedom, its dignity, or its harmony, for it has all these virtues in
turn. The descriptive parts are depicted with the faithfulest pencil: the
battle scenes can only be matched in the Iliad."

Father Pakraduni returned, after twenty-five years' sojourn at
Constantinople, to publish his epic at San Lazzaro, where he still lives,
a tranquil, gentle old man, with a patriarchal beauty and goodness of
face. In 1861 he printed his translation of Milton, with a dedication to
Queen Victoria. His other works bear witness to the genuineness of his
inspiration and piety, and the diligence of his study: they are poems,
poetic translations from the Italian, religious essays, and grammatical

Indeed, the existence of all the friars at San Lazzaro is one of close and
earnest study; and life grows so fond of these quiet monks that it will
hardly part with them at last. One of them is ninety-five years old, and,
until 1863, there was a lay-brother among them whose years numbered a
hundred and eight, and who died of old age, on the 17th of September,
after passing fifty-eight years at San Lazzaro. From biographic memoranda
furnished me by Padre Giacomo, I learn that the name of this patriarch was
George Karabagiak, and that he was a native of Kutaieh in Asia Minor. He
was for a long time the disciple of Dèdè Vartabied, a renowned preacher of
the Armenian faith, and he afterward taught the doctrines of his master in
the Armenian schools. Failing in his desire to enter upon the sacerdotal
life at Constantinople, he procured his admission as lay-brother at San
Lazzaro, where all his remaining days were spent. He was but little
learned; but he had great passion for poetry, and he was the author of
some thirty small works on different subjects. During the course of his
long and diligent life, which was chiefly spent in learning and teaching,
he may be said to have hardly known a day's sickness. And at last he died
of no perceptible disorder. The years tired him to death. He had a
trifling illness in August, and as he convalesced, he grew impatient of
the tenacious life which held him to earth. Slowly pacing up and down the
corridors of the convent, he used to crave the prayers of the brothers
whom he met, beseeching them to intercede with Heaven that he might be
suffered to die. One day he said to the archbishop, "I fear that God has
abandoned me, and I shall live." Only a little while before his death he
wrote some verses, as Padre Giacomo's memorandum witnesses, "with a firm
and steady hand," and the manner of his death was this,--as recorded in
the grave and simple words of my friend's note:--"Finally, on the 17th of
September, very early in the morning, a brother entering his chamber,
asked him how he was. 'Well,' he replied, turning his face to the wall,
and spoke no more. He had passed to a better life."

It seems to me there is a pathos in the close of this old man's life,--
which I hope has not been lost by my way of describing it,--and there is
certainly a moral. I have read of an unlucky sage who discovered the
Elixir of Life, and who, after thrice renewing his existence, at last
voluntarily resigned himself to death, because he had exhausted all that
life had to offer of pleasure or of pain, and knew all its vicissitudes
but the very last. Brother Karabagiak seems to have had no humor to take
even a second ease of life. It is perhaps as well that most men die before
reaching the over-ripeness of a hundred and eight years; and, doubtless,
with all our human willfulness and ignorance, we would readily consent, if
we could fix the time, to go sooner--say, at a hundred and seven years,

Besides the Convent of San Lazzaro, where Armenian boys from all parts of
the East are educated for the priesthood, the nation has a college in the
city in which boys intended for secular careers receive their schooling.
The Palazzo Zenobia is devoted to the use of this college, where, besides
room for study, the boys have abundant space and apparatus for gymnastics,
and ample grounds for gardening. We once passed a pleasant summer evening
there, strolling through the fragrant alleys of the garden, in talk with
the father-professors, and looking on at the gymnastic feats of the boys;
and when the annual exhibition of the school took place in the fall, we
were invited to be present.

The room appointed for the exhibition was the great hall of the palace,
which in other days had evidently been a ball-room. The ceiling was
frescoed in the manner of the last century, with Cupids and Venuses, Vices
and Virtues, fruits and fiddles, dwarfs and blackamoors; and the painted
faces looked down on a scene of as curious interest as ever the
extravagant loves and graces of Tiepolo might hope to see, when the boys
of the college, after assisting at _Te Deum_ in the chapel, entered
the room, and took their places.

At the head of the hall sat the archbishop in his dark robes, with his
heavy gold chain about his neck--a figure and a countenance in all things
spiritual, gracious, and reverend. There is small difference, I believe,
between the creeds of the Armenians and the Roman Catholics, but a very
great disparity in the looks of the two priesthoods, which is all in favor
of the former. The Armenian wears his beard, and the Latin shaves--which
may have a great deal to do with the holiness of appearance. Perhaps,
also, the gentle and mild nature of the oriental yields more sweetly and
entirely to the self-denials of the ecclesiastical vocation, and thus wins
a fairer grace from them. At any rate, I have not seen any thing but
content and calm in the visages of the Armenian fathers, among whom the
priest-face, as a type, does not exist, though it would mark the Romish
ecclesiastic in whatever dress he wore. There is, moreover, a look of such
entire confidence and unworldly sincerity in their eyes, that I could not
help thinking, as I turned from the portly young fathers to the dark-
faced, grave, old-fashioned school-boys, that an exchange of beard only
was needed to effect an exchange of character between those youthful
elders and their pupils. The gray-haired archbishop is a tall and slender
man; but nearly all the fathers take kindly to curves and circles, and
glancing down a row of these amiable priests I could scarcely repress a
smile at the constant recurrence of the line of beauty in their well-
rounded persons.

On the right and left of the archbishop were the few invited guests, and
at the other end of the saloon sat one of the fathers, the plump key-stone
of an arch of comfortable young students expanding toward us. Most of the
boys are from Turkey (the Armenians of Venice, though acknowledging the
Pope as their spiritual head, are the subjects of the Sultan), others are
of Asiatic birth, and two are Egyptians.

As to the last, I think the Sphinx and the Pyramid could hardly have
impressed me more than their dark faces, that seemed to look vaguely on
our modern world from the remote twilights of old, and in their very
infancy to be reverend through the antiquity of their race. The mother of
these boys--a black-eyed, olive-cheeked lady, very handsome and stylish--
was present with their younger brother. I hardly know whether to be
ashamed of having been awed by hearing of the little Egyptian that his
native tongue was Arabic, and that he spoke nothing more occidental than
Turkish. But, indeed, was it wholly absurd to offer a tacit homage to this
favored boy, who must know the "Arabian Nights" in the original?

The exercises began with a theme in Armenian--a language which, but for
its English abundance of sibilants, and a certain German rhythm, was
wholly outlandish to our ears. Themes in Italian, German, and French
succeeded, and then came one in English. We afterward had speech with the
author of this essay, who expressed the liveliest passion for English, in
the philosophy and poetry of which it seemed he particularly delighted. He
told us that he was a Constantinopolitan, and that in six months more he
would complete his collegiate course, when he would return to his native
city, and take employment in the service of the Turkish Government. Many
others of the Armenian students here also find this career open to them in
the East.

The literary exercises closed with another essay in Armenian; and then the
archbishop delivered, very gracefully and impressively, an address to the
boys. After this, the distribution of the premiums--medals of silver and
bronze, and books--took place at the desk of the archbishop. Each boy, as
he advanced to receive his premium, knelt and touched the hand of the
priest with his lips and forehead,--a quaint and pleasing ceremony which
had preceded and followed the reading of all the themes.

The social greetings and congratulations that now took place ended an
entertainment throughout which every body was pleased, and the good-
natured fathers seemed to be moved with a delight no less hearty than that
of the boys themselves. Indeed, the ground of affection and confidence on
which the lads and their teachers seemed to meet, was something very novel
and attractive. We shook hands with our smiling friends among the padri,
took leave of the archbishop, and then visited the studio of Padre
Alessio, who had just finished a faithful and spirited portrait of
monsignore. Adieux to the artist and to Padre Giacomo brought our visit to
an end; and so, from that scene of oriental learning, simplicity, and
kindliness, we walked into our western life once more, and resumed our
citizenship and burden in the Venetian world--out of the waters of which,
like a hydra or other water beast, a bathing boy instantly issued and
begged of us.

A few days later our good Armenians went to pass a month on the main-land
near Padua, where they have comfortable possessions. Peace followed them,
and they came back as plump as they went.



As I think it extremely questionable whether I could get through a chapter
on this subject without some feeble pleasantry about Shylock, and whether,
if I did, the reader would be at all satisfied that I had treated the
matter fully and fairly, I say at the beginning that Shylock is dead; that
if he lived, Antonio would hardly spit upon his gorgeous pantaloons or his
Parisian coat, as he met him on the Rialto; that he would far rather call
out to him, "_Ció Shylock! Bon dí! Go piaser vederla;_" [Footnote:
"Shylock, old fellow, good-day. Glad to see you."] that if Shylock by any
chance entrapped Antonio into a foolish promise to pay him a pound of his
flesh on certain conditions, the honest commissary of police before whom
they brought their affair would dismiss them both to the madhouse at San
Servolo. In a word, the present social relations of Jew and Christian in
this city render the "Merchant of Venice" quite impossible; and the
reader, though he will find the Ghetto sufficiently noisome and dirty,
will not find an oppressed people there, nor be edified by any of those
insults or beatings which it was once a large share of Christian duty to
inflict upon the enemies of our faith. The Catholic Venetian certainly
understands that his Jewish fellow-citizen is destined to some very
unpleasant experiences in the next world, but _Corpo di Bacco_! that
is no reason why he should not be friends with him in this. He meets him
daily on exchange and at the Casino, and he partakes of the hospitality of
his conversazioni. If he still despises him--and I think he does, a
little--he keeps his contempt to himself, for the Jew is gathering into
his own hands great part of the trade of the city, and has the power that
belongs to wealth. He is educated, liberal, and enlightened, and the last
great name in Venetian literature is that of the Jewish historian of the
Republic, Romanin. The Jew's political sympathies are invariably
patriotic, and he calls himself, not Ebreo, but Veneziano. He lives, when
rich, in a palace or a fine house on the Grand Canal, and he furnishes and
lets many others (I must say at rates which savor of the loan secured by
the pound of flesh) in which he does not live. The famous and beautiful
Ca' Doro now belongs to a Jewish family; and an Israelite, the most
distinguished physician in Venice, occupies the _appartamento
signorile_ in the palace of the famous Cardinal Bembo. The Jew is a
physician, a banker, a manufacturer, a merchant; and he makes himself
respected for his intelligence and his probity,--which perhaps does not
infringe more than that of Italian Catholics. He dresses well,--with that
indefinable difference, however, which distinguishes him in every thing
from a Christian,--and his wife and daughter are fashionable and stylish,
They are sometimes, also, very pretty; and I have seen one Jewish lady who
might have stepped out of the sacred page, down from the patriarchal age,
and been known for Rebecca, with her oriental grace, and delicate,
sensitive, high-bred look and bearing--no more western and modern than a
lily of Palestine.

But it is to the Ghetto I want to take you now (by the way we went one
sunny day late last fall), that I may show you something of the Jewish
past, which has survived to the nineteenth century in much of the
discomfort and rank savor of the dark ages.

In the fifteenth century all the riches of the Orient had been poured into
the lap of Venice, and a spirit of reckless profusion took possession of
her citizens. The money, hastily and easily amassed, went as rapidly as it
came. It went chiefly for dress, in which the Venetian still indulges very
often to the stint of his stomach; and the ladies of that bright-colored,
showy day bore fortunes on their delicate persons in the shape of costly
vestments of scarlet, black, green, white, maroon, or violet, covered with
gems, glittering with silver buttons, and ringing with silver bells. The
fine gentlemen of the period were not behind them in extravagance; and the
priests were peculiarly luxurious in dress, wearing gay silken robes, with
cowls of fur, and girdles of gold and silver. Sumptuary laws were vainly
passed to repress the general license, and fortunes were wasted, and
wealthy families reduced to beggary. [Footnote: Galliciolli, _Memorie
Venete_.] At this time, when so many worthy gentlemen and ladies had
need of the Uncle to whom hard-pressed nephews fly to pledge the wrecks of
prosperity, there was yet no Monte di Pietà, and the demand for
pawnbrokers becoming imperative, the Republic was obliged to recall the
Hebrews from the exile into which they had been driven some time before,
that they might set up pawnshops and succor necessity. They came back,
however, only for a limited time, and were obliged to wear a badge of
yellow color upon the breast, to distinguish them from the Christians, and
later a yellow cap, then a red hat, and then a hat of oil-cloth. They
could not acquire houses or lands in Venice, nor practice any trade, nor
exercise any noble art but medicine. They were assigned a dwelling-place
in the vilest and unhealthiest part of the city, and their quarter was
called Ghetto, from the Hebrew _nghedah_, a congregation. [Footnote:
Mutinelli.] They were obliged to pay their landlords a third more rent
than Christians paid; the Ghetto was walled in, and its gates were kept by
Christian guards, who every day opened them at dawn and closed them at
dark, and who were paid by the Jews. They were not allowed to issue at all
from the Ghetto on holidays; and two barges, with armed men, watched over
them night and day, while a special magistracy had charge of their
affairs. Their synagogues were built at Mestre, on the main-land; and
their dead were buried in the sand upon the seashore, whither, on the
Mondays of September, the baser sort of Venetians went to make merry, and
drunken men and women danced above their desecrated tombs. These unhappy
people were forced also to pay tribute to the state at first every third
year, then every fifth year, and then every tenth year, the privilege of
residence being ingeniously renewed to them at these periods for a round
sum; but, in spite of all, they flourished upon the waste and wickedness
of their oppressors, waxed rich as these waxed poor, and were not again
expelled from the city. [Footnote: _Del Commercia del Veneziani_.

There never was any attempt to disturb the Hebrews by violence, except on
one occasion, about the close of the fifteenth century, when a tumult was
raised against them for child-murder. This, however, was promptly quelled
by the Republic before any harm was done them; and they dwelt peacefully
in their Ghetto till the lofty gates of their prison caught the sunlight
of modern civilization, and crumbled beneath it. Then many of the Jews
came forth and fixed their habitations in different parts of the city, but
many others clung to the spot where their temples still remain, and which
was hallowed by long suffering, and soaked with the blood of innumerable
generations of geese. So, although you find Jews everywhere in Venice, you
never find a Christian in the Ghetto, which is held to this day by a large
Hebrew population.

We had not started purposely to see the Ghetto, and for this reason it had
that purely incidental relish, which is the keenest possible savor of the
object of interest. We were on an expedition to find Sior Antonio Rioba,
who has been, from time immemorial, the means of ponderous practical jokes
in Venice. Sior Antonio is a rough-hewn statue set in the corner of an
ordinary grocery, near the Ghetto. He has a pack on his back and a staff
in his hand; his face is painted, and is habitually dishonored with dirt
thrown upon it by boys. On the wall near him is painted a bell-pull, with
the legend, _Sior Antonio Rioba_. Rustics, raw apprentices, and
honest Germans new to the city, are furnished with packages to be carried
to Sior Antonio Rioba, who is very hard to find, and not able to receive
the messages when found, though there is always a crowd of loafers near to
receive the unlucky simpleton who brings them. _"E poi, che commedia
vederli arrabiarsi! Che ridere_!" That is the Venetian notion of fun,
and no doubt the scene is amusing. I was curious to see Sior Antonio,
because a comic journal bearing his name had been published during the
time of the Republic of 1848, and from the fact that he was then a sort of
Venetian Pasquino. But I question now if he was worth seeing, except as
something that brought me into the neighborhood of the Ghetto, and
suggested to me the idea of visiting that quarter.

As we left him and passed up the canal in our gondola, we came unawares
upon the church of Santa Maria dell' Orto, one of the most graceful Gothic
churches in the city. The façade is exquisite, and has two Gothic windows
of that religious and heavenly beauty which pains the heart with its
inexhaustible richness. One longed to fall down on the space of green turf
before the church, now bathed in the soft golden October sunshine, and
recant these happy, commonplace centuries of heresy, and have back again
the good old believing days of bigotry, and superstition, and roasting,
and racking, if only to have once more the men who dreamed those windows
out of their faith and piety (if they did, which I doubt), and made them
with their patient, reverent hands (if their hands _were_ reverent,
which I doubt). The church is called Santa Maria dell' Orto, from the
miraculous image of Our Lady which was found in an orchard where the
temple now stands. We saw this miraculous sculpture, and thought it
reflected little credit upon the supernatural artist. The church is
properly that of Saint Christopher, but the saint has been titularly
vanquished by the Madonna, though he comes out gigantically triumphant in
a fresco above the high altar, and leads to confused and puzzling
reminiscences of Bluebeard and Morgante Maggiore, to both of which
characters he bears a bewildering personal resemblance.

There were once many fine paintings by Tintoretto and Bellini in this
church; but as the interior is now in course of restoration, the paintings
have been removed to the Academy, and we only saw one, which was by the
former master, and had all his striking imagination in the conception, all
his strength in the drawing and all his lampblack in the faded coloring.
In the centre of the church, the sacristan scraped the carpenter's rubbish
away from a flat tablet in the floor, and said that it was Tintoretto's
tomb. It is a sad thing to doubt even a sacristan, but I pointed out that
the tomb bore any name in the world rather than Robusti. "Ah!" said the
sacristan, "it is just that which makes it so very curious,--that
Tintoretto should wish to be buried under another name!" [Footnote:
Members of the family of Tintoretto are actually buried in this church;
and no sacristan of right feeling could do less than point out some tomb
as that of the great painter himself.]

It was a warm, sunny day in the fall, as I said; yet as we drew near the
Ghetto, we noticed in the air many white, floating particles, like lazy,
straggling flakes of snow. These we afterward found to be the down of
multitudes of geese, which are forever plucked by the whole apparent force
of the populace,--the fat of the devoted birds being substituted for lard
in the kitchens of the Ghetto, and their flesh for pork. As we approached
the obscene little riva at which we landed, a blond young Israelite,
lavishly adorned with feathers, came running to know if we wished to see
the church--by which name he put the synagogue to the Gentile
comprehension. The street through which we passed had shops on either
hand, and at the doors groups of jocular Hebrew youth sat plucking geese;
while within, long files of all that was mortal of geese hung from the
rafters and the walls. The ground was webbed with the feet of geese, and
certain loutish boys, who paused to look at us, had each a goose dragging
at his heels, in the forlorn and elongated manner peculiar to dead
poultry. The ground was stained with the blood of geese, and the smell of
roasting geese came out of the windows of the grim and lofty houses.

Our guide was picturesque, but the most helpless and inconclusive cicerone
I ever knew; and while his long, hooked Hebrew nose caught my idle fancy,
and his soft blue eyes excused a great deal of inefficiency, the aimless
fashion in which he mounted dirty staircases for the keys of the
synagogue, and came down without them, and the manner in which he shouted
to the heads of unctuous Jessicas thrust out of windows, and never gained
the slightest information by his efforts, were imbecilities that we
presently found insupportable, and we gladly cast him off for a dark-faced
Hebrew boy who brought us at once to the door of the Spanish synagogue.

Of seven synagogues in the Ghetto, the principal was built in 1655, by the
Spanish Jews who had fled to Venice from the terrors of the Holy Office.
Its exterior has nothing to distinguish it as a place of worship, and we
reached the interior of the temple by means of some dark and narrow
stairs. In the floor and on the walls of the passage-way were set tablets
to the memory of rich and pious Israelites who had bequeathed their
substance for the behoof of the sanctuary; and the sacristan informed us
that the synagogue was also endowed with a fund by rich descendants of
Spanish Jews in Amsterdam. These moneys are kept to furnish indigent
Israelitish couples with the means of marrying, and who claim the benefit
of the fund are entitled to it. The sacristan--a little wiry man, with
bead-black eyes, and of a shoemakerish presence--told us with evident
pride that he was himself a descendant of the Spanish Jews. Howbeit, he
was now many centuries from speaking the Castilian, which, I had read, was
still used in the families of the Jewish fugitives from Spain to the
Levant. He spoke, instead, the abominable Venetian of Cannaregio, with
that Jewish thickness which distinguishes the race's utterance, no matter
what language its children are born to. It is a curious philological fact,
which I have heard repeatedly alleged by Venetians, and which is perhaps
worth noting here, that Jews speaking their dialect, have not only this
thickness of accent, but also a peculiarity of construction which marks
them at once.

We found the contracted interior of the synagogue hardly worth looking at.
Instead of having any thing oriental or peculiar in its architecture, it
was in a bad spirit of Renaissance art. A gallery encircled the inside,
and here the women, during worship, sat apart from the men, who had seats
below, running back from either side of the altar. I had no right, coming
from a Protestant land of pews, to indulge in that sentimentality; but I
could not help being offended to see that each of these seats might be
lifted up and locked into the upright back and thus placed beyond question
at the disposal of the owner: I like the freedom and equality in the
Catholic churches much better. The sacristan brought a ponderous silver
key, and unlocking the door behind the pulpit, showed us the Hebrew
Scriptures used during the service by the Rabbi. They formed an immense
parchment volume, and were rolled in silk upon a wooden staff. This was
the sole object of interest in the synagogue, and its inspection concluded
our visit.

We descended the narrow stairs and emerged upon the piazza which we had
left. It was only partly paved with brick, and was very dirty. The houses
which surrounded it were on the outside old and shabby, and, even in this
Venice of lofty edifices, remarkably high. A wooden bridge crossed a vile
canal to another open space, where once congregated the merchants who sell
antique furniture, old pictures, and objects of vertu. They are now,
however, found everywhere in the city, and most of them are on the Grand
Canal, where they heap together marvelous collections, and establish
authenticities beyond cavil. "Is it an original?" asked a young lady who
was visiting one of their shops, as she paused before an attributive
Veronese, or--what know I?--perhaps a Titian. "_Si, signora,

I do not understand why any class of Jews should still remain in the
Ghetto, but it is certain, as I said, that they do remain there in great
numbers. It may be that the impurity of the place and the atmosphere is
conducive to purity of race; but I question if the Jews buried on the
sandy slope of the Lido, and blown over by the sweet sea wind--it must
needs blow many centuries to cleanse them of the Ghetto--are not rather
to be envied by the inhabitants of those high dirty houses and low dirty
lanes. There was not a touch of any thing wholesome, or pleasant, or
attractive, to relieve the noisomeness of the Ghetto to its visitors; and
they applauded, with a common voice, the neatness which had prompted
Andrea the gondolier to roll up the carpet from the floor of his gondola,
and not to spread it again within the limits of that quarter.

In the good old times, when pestilence avenged the poor and oppressed upon
their oppressors, what grim and dismal plagues may not have stalked by
night and noonday out of those hideous streets, and passed the marble
bounds of patrician palaces, and brought to the bedsides of the rich and
proud the filthy misery of the Ghetto turned to poison! Thank God that the
good old times are gone and going. One learns in these aged lands to hate
and execrate the past.



We came away from the Ghetto, as we had arrived, in a gentle fall of
goose-down, and winding crookedly through a dirty canal, glided into purer
air and cleaner waters. I cannot well say how it was we came upon the old
Servite Convent, which I had often looked for in vain, and which,
associated with the great name of Paolo Sarpi, is to me one of the most
memorable places in Venice. We reached it, after passing by that old, old
palace, which was appointed in the early ages of Venetian commerce for the
reception of oriental traffic and traffickers, and where it is said the
Moorish merchants resided till the later time of the Fondaco dei Turchi on
the Grand Canal. The façade of the palace is richly sculptured; and near
one corner is the bass-relief of a camel and his turbaned driver,--in
token, perhaps, that man and beast (as orientals would understand them)
were here entertained.

We had lived long enough in Venice to know that it was by no means worth
while to explore the interior of this old palace because the outside was
attractive, and so we left it; and turning a corner, found ourselves in a
shallow canal, with houses on one side, and a grassy bank on the other.
The bank sloped gently from the water up to the walls of some edifice, on
which ruin seemed to have fastened soon after the architect had begun his
work. The vast walls, embracing several acres in their close, rose only
some thirty or forty feet from the ground--only high enough, indeed, to
join over the top of the great Gothic gates, which pierced them on two
façades. There must have been barracks near; for on the sward, under the
walls, muskets were stacked, and Austrian soldiers were practicing the
bayonet-exercise with long poles padded at the point. "_Ein, zwei,
drei,--vorwärts! Ein, zwei, drei,--ruckwärts_!" snarled the drill-
sergeant, and the dark-faced Hungarian soldiers--who may have soon
afterward prodded their Danish fellow-beings all the more effectively for
that day's training--stooped, writhed, and leaped obedient. I, who had
already caught sight of a little tablet in the wall bearing the name of
Paolo Sarpi, could not feel the propriety of the military performance on
that scene; yet I was very glad, dismounting from the gondola, to get by
the soldiers without being forced back at the padded point of a pole, and
offered no audible objection to their presence.

So passing to the other side, I found entrance through a disused chapel to
the interior of the convent. The gates on the outside were richly
sculptured, and were reverend and clean; tufts of harsh grass grew from
their arches, and hung down like the "overwhelming brows" of age. Within,
at first light, I saw nothing but heaps of rubbish, piles of stone, and
here and there a mutilated statue. I remember two pathetic caryatides,
that seemed to have broken and sunk under too heavy a weight for their
gentle beauty--and everywhere the unnamable filth with which ruin is
always dishonored in Italy, and which makes the most picturesque and
historic places inaccessible to the foot, and intolerable to the senses
and the soul. I was thinking with a savage indignation on this incurable
_porcheria_, of the Italian poor (who are guilty of such
desecrations), when my eye fell upon an enclosed space in one corner,
where some odd-looking boulders were heaped together. It was a space about
six feet in depth, and twenty feet square; and the boulders, on closer
inspection, turned out to be human skulls, nestling on piles of human
bones. In any other land than Italy I think I should have turned from the
grisly sight with a cowardly sickness and shuddering; but here!--Why,
heaven and earth seem to take the loss of men so good-naturedly,--so many
men have died and passed away with their difficult, ambitious, and
troublesome little schemes,--and the great mass of mankind is taken so
small account of in the course of destiny, that the idea of death does not
appear so alien and repulsive as elsewhere, and the presence of such
evidences of our poor mortality can scarcely offend sensibility. These
were doubtless the bones of the good Servite friars who had been buried in
their convent, and had been digged up to make way for certain improvements
now taking place within its walls. I have no doubt that their deaths were
a rest to their bodies, to say nothing of their souls. If they were at all
in their lives like those who have come after them, the sun baked their
bald brows in Summer, and their naked feet--poor feet! clapping round in
wooden-soled sandals over the frozen stones of Venice--were swollen and
gnawed with chilblains in winter; and no doubt some fat friar of their
number, looking all the droller in his bare feet for the spectacles on his
nose, came down Calle Falier then, as now, to collect the charity of bread
and fuel, far oftener than the dwellers in that aristocratic precinct
wished to see him.

The friars' skulls looked contented enough, and smiled after the hearty
manner of skulls; and some of the leg-bones were thrust through the
enclosing fence, and hung rakishly over the top. As to their spirits, I
suppose they must have found out by this time that these confused and
shattered tabernacles which they left behind them are not nearly so
corrupt and dead as the monastic system which still cumbers the earth.
People are building on the site of the old convent a hospital for indigent
and decrepit women, where a religious sisterhood will have care of the
inmates. It is a good end enough, but I think it would be the true
compensation if all the rubbish of the old cloister were cleared from the
area of those walls, and a great garden planted in the space, where lovers
might whisper their wise nonsense, and children might romp and frolic,
till the crumbling, masonry forgot its old office of imprisonment and the
memory of its prisoners. For here, one could only think of the moping and
mumming herd of monks, who were certainly not worth remembering, while the
fame of Paolo Sarpi, and the good which he did, refused to be localized.
That good is an inheritance which has enriched the world; but the share of
Venice has been comparatively small in it, and that of this old convent
ground still less. I rather wondered, indeed, that I should have taken the
trouble to look up the place; but it is a harmless, if even a very
foolish, pastime to go seeking for the sublime secret of the glory of the
palm in the earth where it struck root and flourished. So far as the life-
long presence and the death of a man of clear brain and true heart could
hallow any scene, this ground was holy; for here Sarpi lived, and here in
his cell he died, a simple Servite friar--he who had caught the bolts of
excommunication launched against the Republic from Rome, and broken them
in his hand,--who had breathed upon the mighty arm of the temporal power,
and withered it to the juiceless stock it now remains. And yet I could not
feel that the ground _was_ holy, and it did not make me think of
Sarpi; and I believe that only those travelers who invent in cold blood
their impressions of memorable places ever have remarkable impressions to

Once, before the time of Sarpi, an excommunication was pronounced against
the Republic with a result as terrible as that of the later interdict was
absurd. Venice took possession, early in the fourteenth century, of
Ferrara, by virtue of a bargain which the high contracting parties--the
Republic and an exiled claimant to the ducal crown of Ferrara--had no
right to make. The father of the banished prince had displeased him by
marrying late in life, when the thoughts of a good man should be turned on
other things, and the son compassed the sire's death. For this the
Ferrarese drove him away, and as they would not take him back to reign
over them at the suggestion of Venice, he resigned his rights in favor of
the Republic, and the Republic at once annexed the city to its
territories. The Ferrarese appealed to the pope for his protection, and
Clement V., supporting an ancient but long quiescent claim to Ferrara on
the part of the Church, called upon the Venetians to surrender the city,
and, on their refusal, excommunicated them. All Christian peoples were
commanded "to arm against the Venetians, to spoil them of their goods, as
separated from the union of Christians, and as enemies of the Roman
Church." They were driven out of Ferrara, but their troubles did not end
with their loss of the city. Giustina Renier-Michiel says the nations,
under the shelter of the pope's permission and command, "exercised against
them every species of cruelty; there was no wrong or violence of which
they were not victims. All the rich merchandise which they had in France,
in Flanders, and in other places, was confiscated; their merchants were
arrested, maltreated, and some of them killed. Woe to us, if the Saracens
had been baptized Christians! our nation would have been utterly destroyed."
Such was the ruin brought upon us by this excommunication that to this day
it is a popular saying, concerning a man of gloomy aspect, "_He looks as
if he were bringing the excommunication of Ferrara_."

No proverb, sprung from the popular terror, commemorates the interdict of
the Republic which took place in 1606, and which, I believe, does not
survive in popular recollection at Venice. It was at first a collision of
the Venetian and Papal authorities at Ferrara, and then an interference of
the pope to prevent the execution of secular justice upon certain
ecclesiastical offenders in Venetia, which resulted in the excommunication
of the Republic, and finally in the defeat of St. Peter and the triumph of
St. Mark. Chief among the ecclesiastical offenders mentioned were the
worthy Abbate Brandolino of Narvesa, who was accused, among other things,
of poisoning his own father; and the good Canonico Saraceni of Vicenza,
who was repulsed in overtures made to his beautiful cousin, and who
revenged himself by defaming her character, and "filthily defacing" the
doors of her palace. The abbate was arrested, and the canon, on this
lady's complaint to the Ten at Venice, was thrown into prison, and the
weak and furious Pope Paul V., being refused their release by the Ten,
excommunicated the whole Republic.

In the same year, that is to say 1552, the bane and antidote, Paul the
Pope and Paul Sarpi the friar, were sent into the world. The latter grew
in piety, fame, and learning, and at the time the former began his quarrel
with the Republic, there was none in Venice so fit and prompt as Sarpi to
stand forth in her defense. He was at once taken into the service of St.
Mark, and his clear, acute mind fashioned the spiritual weapons of the
Republic, and helped to shape the secular measures taken to annul the
interdict. As soon as the bull of excommunication was issued, the Republic
instructed her officers to stop every copy of it at the frontier, and it
was never read in any church in the Venetian dominions. The Senate refused
to receive it from the Papal Nuncio. All priests, monks, and other
servants of the Church, as well as all secular persons, were commanded to
disregard it; and refractory ecclesiastics were forced to open their
churches on pain of death. The Jesuits and Capuchins were banished; and
clerical intriguers, whom Rome sent in swarms to corrupt social and family
relations, by declaring an end of civil government in Venice, and
preaching among women disobedience to patriotic husbands and fathers, were
severely punished. With internal safety thus provided for, the Republic
intrusted her moral, religious, and political defense entirely to Sarpi,
who devoted himself to his trust with fidelity, zeal, and power.

It might have been expected that the friend of Galileo, and the most
learned and enlightened man of his country, would have taken the short and
decisive method of discarding all allegiance to Rome as the most logical
resistance to the unjust interdict. But the Venetians have ever been
faithful Catholics, [Footnote: It is convenient here to attest the truth
of certain views of religious sentiment in Italy, which Mr. Trollope, in
his _Paul the Pope and Paul the Friar_, quotes from an "Italian
author, by no means friendly to Catholicism, and very well qualified to
speak of the progress of opinions and tendencies among his fellow-

This author is Bianchi Giovini, who, speaking of modern Catholicism as the
heir of the old materialistic paganism, says: "The Italians have
identified themselves with this mode of religion. Cultivated men find in
it the truth there is in it, and the people find what is agreeable to
them. But both the former and the latter approve it as conformable to the
national character. And whatever may be the religious system which shall
govern our descendants twenty centuries hence, I venture to affirm that
the exterior forms of it will be pretty nearly the same as those which
prevail at present, and which did prevail twenty centuries ago." Mr.
Trollope generously dissents from the "_pessimism_" of these views.
The views are discouraging for some reasons; but, with considerable
disposition and fair opportunity to observe Italian character in this
respect, I had arrived at precisely these conclusions. I wish here to
state that in my slight sketch of Sarpi and his times I have availed
myself freely of Mr. Trollope's delightful book--it is near being too
much of a good thing--named above.] and Sarpi was (or, according to the
papal writers, seemed to be) a sincere and obedient Servite friar,
believing in the spiritual supremacy of the pope, and revering the
religion of Rome. He therefore fought Paul inside of the Church, and his
writings on the interdict remain the monument of his polemical success. He
was the heart and brain of the Republic's whole resistance,--he supplied
her with inexhaustible reasons and answers,--and, though tempted, accused,
and threatened, he never swerved from his fidelity to her.

As he was the means of her triumph, [Footnote: The triumph was such only
so far as the successful resistance to the interdict was concerned; for at
the intercession of the Catholic powers the Republic gave up the
ecclesiastical prisoners, and he allowed all the banished priests except
the Jesuits to return. The Venetians utterly refused to perform any act of
humiliation or penance. The interdict had been defied, and it remained
despised.] remained the object of her love. He could never be persuaded to
desert his cell in the Minorite Convent for the apartments appointed him
by the State; and even when his busy days were spent in council at the
Ducal Palace, he returned each night to sleep in the cloister. After the
harmless interdict had been removed by Paul, and the unyielding Republic
forgiven, the wrath of Rome remained kindled against the friar whose logic
had been too keen for the last reason of popes. He had been tried for
heresy in his youth at Milan, and acquitted; again, during the progress of
St. Mark's quarrel with Rome, his orthodoxy had been questioned; and now
that all was over, and Rome could turn her attention to one particular
offender, he was entreated, coaxed, commanded to come to her, and put her
heart at rest concerning these old accusations. But Sarpi was very well in
Venice. He had been appointed Consultor in Theology to the Republic, and
had received free admission to the secret archives of the State,--a favor,
till then, never bestowed on any. So he would not go to Rome, and Rome
sent assassins to take his life. One evening, as he was returning from the
Ducal Palace in company with a lay-brother of the convent, and an old
patrician, very infirm and helpless, he was attacked by these
_nuncios_ of the papal court: one of them seized the lay-brother, and
another the patrician, while a third dealt Sarpi innumerable dagger
thrusts. He fell as if dead, and the ruffians made off in the confusion.

Sarpi had been fearfully wounded, but he recovered. The action of the
Republic in this affair is a comforting refutation of the saying that
Republics are ungrateful, and the common belief that Venice was
particularly so. The most strenuous and unprecedented efforts were made to
take the assassins, and the most terrific penalties were denounced against
them. What was much better, new honors were showered upon Sarpi, and
extraordinary and affectionate measures were taken to provide for his

And, in fine, he lived in the service of the Republic, revered and
beloved, till his seventieth year, when he died with zeal for her good
shaping his last utterance: "I must go to St. Mark, for it is late, and I
have much to do."

Brave Sarpi, and brave Republic! Men cannot honor them enough. For though
the terrors of the interdict were doubted to be harmless even at that
time, it had remained for them to prove the interdict, then and forever,
an instrument as obsolete as the catapult.

I was so curious as to make some inquiry among the workmen on the old
convent ground, whether any stone or other record commemorative of Sarpi
had been found in the demolished cells. I hoped, not very confidently, to
gather some trace of his presence there--to have, perhaps, the spot on
which he died shown me. To a man, they were utterly ignorant of Sarpi,
while affecting, in the Italian manner, to be perfectly informed on the
subject. I was passed, with my curiosity, from one to another, till I fell
into the hands of a kind of foreman, to whom I put my questions anew. He
was a man of Napoleonic beard, and such fair red-and-white complexion that
he impressed me as having escaped from a show of wax-works, and I was not
at all surprised to find him a wax figure in point of intelligence. He
seemed to think my questions the greatest misfortunes which had ever
befallen him, and to regard each suggestion of Sarpi--_tempo della
Repubblica--scomunica di Paolo Quinto_--as an intolerable oppression.
He could only tell me that on a certain spot (which he pointed out with
his foot) in the demolished church, there had been found a stone with
Sarpi's name upon it. The padrone, who had the contract for building the
new convent, had said,--"Truly, I have heard speak of this Sarpi;" but the
stone had been broken, and he did not know what had become of it.

And, in fact, the only thing that remembered Sarpi, on the site of the
convent where he spent his life, died, and was buried, was the little
tablet on the outside of the wall, of which the abbreviated Latin
announced that he had been Theologue to the Republic, and that his dust
was now removed to the island of San Michele. After this failure, I had no
humor to make researches for the bridge on which the friar was attacked by
his assassins. But, indeed, why should I look for it? Finding it, could I
have kept in my mind the fine dramatic picture I now have, of Sarpi
returning to his convent on a mild October evening, weary with his long
walk from St. Mark's, and pacing with downcast eyes,--the old patrician
and the lay-brother at his side, and the masked and stealthy assassins,
with uplifted daggers, behind him? Nay, I fear I should have found the
bridge with some scene of modern life upon it, and brought away in my
remembrance an old woman with an oil-bottle, or a straggling boy with a
tumbler, and a very little wine in it.

On our way home from the Servite Convent, we stopped again near the corner
and bridge of Sior Antonio Rioba,--this time to go into the house of
Tintoretto, which stands close at the right hand, on the same quay. The
house, indeed, might make some pretensions to be called a palace: it is
large, and has a carved and balconied front, in which are set a now
illegible tablet describing it as the painter's dwelling, and a medallion
portrait of Robusti. It would have been well if I had contented myself
with this goodly outside; for penetrating, by a long narrow passage and
complicated stairway, to the interior of the house, I found that it had
nothing to offer me but the usual number of commonplace rooms in the usual
blighting state of restoration. I must say that the people of the house,
considering they had nothing in the world to show me, were kind and
patient under the intrusion, and answered with very polite affirmation my
discouraged inquiry if this were really Tintoretto's house.

Their conduct was different from that of the present inmates of Titian's
house, near the Fondamenta Nuove, in a little court at the left of the
church of the Jesuits. These unreasonable persons think it an intolerable
bore that the enlightened traveling public should break in upon their
privacy. They put their heads out of the upper windows, and assure the
strangers that the house is as utterly restored within as they behold it
without (and it _is_ extremely restored), that it merely occupies the
site of the painter's dwelling, and that there is nothing whatever to see
in it. I never myself had the heart to force an entrance after these
protests; but an acquaintance of the more obdurate sex, whom I had the
honor to accompany thither, once did so, and came out with a story of
rafters of the original Titianic kitchen being still visible in the new
one. After a lapse of two years I revisited the house, and found that so
far from having learned patience by frequent trial, the inmates had been
apparently goaded into madness during the interval. They seemed to know of
our approach by instinct, and thrust their heads out, ready for protest,
before we were near enough to speak. The lazy, frowzy women, the worthless
men, and idle, loafing boys of the neighborhood, gathered round to witness
the encounter; but though repeatedly commanded to ring (I was again in
company with ladies), and try to force the place, I refused decidedly to
do so. The garrison were strengthening their position by plastering and
renewed renovation, and I doubt that by this time the original rafters are
no longer to be seen. A plasterer's boy, with a fine sense of humor, stood
clapping his trowel on his board, inside the house, while we debated
retreat, and derisively invited us to enter: _"Suoni pure, O signore!
Questa e la famosa casa del gran pittore, l'immortale Tiziano,--suoni,
signore!_" (Ring, by all means, sir. This is the famous house of the
great painter, the immortal Titian. Ring!) _Da capo_. We retired amid
the scorn of the populace. But indeed I could not blame the inhabitants of
Titian's house; and were I condemned to live in a place so famous as to
attract idle curiosity, flushed and insolent with travel, I should go to
the verge of man-traps and shot-guns to protect myself.

This house, which is now hemmed in by larger buildings of later date, had
in the painter's time an incomparably "lovely and delightful situation."
Standing near the northern boundary of the city, it looked out over the
lagoon,--across the quiet isle of sepulchres, San Michele,--across the
smoking chimneys of the Murano glass-works, and the bell-towers of her
churches,--to the long line of the sea-shore on the right and to the main-
land on the left; and beyond the nearer lagoon islands and the faintly
penciled outlines of Torcello and Burano in front, to the sublime distance
of the Alps, shining in silver and purple, and resting their snowy heads
against the clouds. It had a pleasant garden of flowers and trees, into
which the painter descended by an open stairway, and in which he is said
to have studied the famous tree in The Death of Peter Martyr. Here he
entertained the great and noble of his day, and here he feasted and made
merry with the gentle sculptor Sansovino, and with their common friend,
the rascal-poet Aretino. The painter's and the sculptor's wives knew each
other, and Sansovino's Paola was often in the house of Cecilia Vecellio;
[Footnote: The wife of Titian's youth was, according to Ticozzi, named
Lucia. It is in Mutinelli that I find allusion to Cecilia. The author of
the _Annali Urbani_, speaking of the friendship and frequent meetings
of Titian and Sansovino, says,--"Vivevano ... allora ambedue di un amore
fatto sacro dalle leggi divine, essendo moglie di Tiziano una Cecilia." I
would not advise the reader to place too fond a trust in any thing
concerning the house of Titian. Mutinelli refers to but one house of the
painter, while Ticozzi makes him proprietor of two.] and any one who is
wise enough not to visit the place, can easily think of those ladies
there, talking at an open window that gives upon the pleasant garden,
where their husbands walk up and down together in the purple evening

In the palace where Goldoni was born a servant showed me an entirely new
room near the roof, in which he said the great dramatist had composed his
immortal comedies. As I knew, however, that Goldoni had left the house
when a child, I could scarcely believe what the cicerone said, though I
was glad he said it, and that he knew any thing at all of Goldoni. It is a
fine old Gothic palace on a small canal near the Frari, and on the Calle
del Nomboli, just across from a shop of indigestible pastry. It is known
by an inscription, and by the medallion of the dramatist above the land-
door; and there is no harm in looking in at the court on the ground-floor,
where you may be pleased with the picturesque old stairway, wandering
upward I hardly know how high, and adorned with many little heads of

Several palaces dispute the honor of being Bianca Cappello's birthplace,
but Mutinelli awards the distinction to the palace at Sant' Appollinare
near the Ponte Storto. One day a gondolier vaingloriously rowed us to the
water-gate of the edifice through a very narrow, damp, and uncleanly
canal, pretending that there was a beautiful staircase in its court. At
the moment of our arrival, however, Bianca happened to be hanging out
clothes from a window, and shrilly disclaimed the staircase, attributing
this merit to another Palazzo Cappello. We were less pleased with her
appearance here, than with that portrait of her which we saw on another
occasion in the palace of a lady of her name and blood. This lady has
since been married, and the name of Cappello is now extinct.

The Palazzo Mocenigo, in which Byron lived, is galvanized into ghastly
newness by recent repairs, and as it is one of the ugliest palaces on the
Grand Canal, it has less claim than ever upon one's interest. The
custodian shows people the rooms where the poet wrote, dined, and slept,
and I suppose it was from the hideous basket-balcony over the main door
that one of his mistresses threw herself into the canal. Another of these
interesting relicts is pointed out in the small butter-and-cheese shop
which she keeps in the street leading from Campo Sant' Angelo to San
Paterinan: she is a fat sinner, long past beauty, bald, and somewhat
melancholy to behold. Indeed, Byron's memory is not a presence which I
approach with pleasure, and I had most enjoyment in his palace when I
thought of good-natured little Thomas Moore, who once visited his lordship
there. Byron himself hated the recollection of his life in Venice, and I
am sure no one else need like it. But he is become a _cosa di
Venezia_, and you cannot pass his palace without having it pointed out
to you by the gondoliers. Early after my arrival in the city I made the
acquaintance of an old smooth-shaven, smooth-mannered Venetian, who said
he had known Byron, and who told me that he once swam with him from the
Port of San Nicolò to his palace-door. The distance is something over
three miles, but if the swimmers came in with the sea the feat was not so
great as it seems, for the tide is as swift and strong as a mill-race. I
think it would be impossible to make the distance against the tide.



To make an annual report in September upon the Commercial Transactions of
the port, was an official duty to which I looked forward at Venice with a
vague feeling of injury during a year of almost uninterrupted
tranquillity. It was not because the preparation of the report was an
affair of so great labor that I shrank from it; but because the material
was wanting with which to make a respectable show among my consular peers
in the large and handsomely misprinted volume of Commercial Relations
annually issued by the enterprising Congressional publishers. It grieved
me that upstart ports like Marseilles, Liverpool, and Bremen, should
occupy so much larger space in this important volume than my beloved
Venice; and it was with a feeling of profound mortification that I used to
post my meagre account of a commerce that once was greater than all the
rest of the world's together. I sometimes desperately eked out the
material furnished me in the statistics of the Venetian Chamber of
Commerce by an agricultural essay on the disease of the grapes and its
cure, or by a few wretched figures representative of a very slender mining
interest in the province. But at last I determined to end these
displeasures, and to make such researches into the history of her Commerce
as should furnish me forth material for a report worthy of the high place
Venice held in my reverence.

Indeed, it seemed to be by a sort of anachronism that I had ever mentioned
contemporary Venetian Commerce; and I turned with exultation from the
phantom transactions of the present to that solid and magnificent
prosperity of the past, of which the long-enduring foundations were laid
in the earliest Christian times. For the new cities formed by the
fugitives from barbarian invasion of the main-land, during the fifth
century, had hardly settled around a common democratic government on the
islands of the lagoons, when they began to develop maritime energies and
resources; and long before this government was finally established at
Rialto, (the ancient sea-port of Padua,) or Venice had become the capital
of the young Republic, the Veneti had thriftily begun to turn the wild
invaders of the main-land to account, to traffic with them, and to make
treaties of commerce with their rulers. Theodoric, the king of the Goths,
had fixed his capital at Ravenna, in the sixth century, and would have
been glad to introduce Italian civilization among his people; but this
warlike race were not prepared to practice the useful arts, and although
they inhabited one of the most fruitful parts of Italy, with ample borders
of sea, they were neither sailors nor tillers of the ground. The Venetians
supplied them (at a fine profit, no doubt,) with the salt made in the
lagoons, and with wines brought from Istria. The Goths viewed with
especial amazement their skill in the management of their river-craft, by
means of which the dauntless traders ascended the shallowest streams to
penetrate the main-land, "running on the grass of the meadows, and between
the stalks of the harvest field,"--just as in this day our own western
steamers are known to run in a heavy dew.

The Venetians continued to extend and confirm their commerce with those
helpless and hungry warriors, and were ready also to open a lucrative
trade with the Longobards when they descended into Italy about the year
570. They had, in fact, abetted the Longobards in their war with the Greek
Emperor Justinian, (who had opposed their incursion,) and in return the
barbarians gave them the right to hold great free marts or fairs on the
shores of the lagoons, whither the people resorted from every part of the
Longobard kingdom to buy the salt of the lagoons, grain from Istria and
Dalmatia, and slaves from every country.

The slave-trade, indeed, formed then one of the most lucrative branches of
Venetian commerce, as now it forms the greatest stain upon the annals of
that commerce. The islanders, however, were not alone guilty of this
infamous trade in men; other Italian states made profit of it, and it may
be said to have been all but universal. But the Venetians were the most
deeply involved in it, they pursued it the most unscrupulously, and they
relinquished it the last. The pope forbade and execrated their commerce,
and they sailed from the papal ports with cargoes of slaves for the
infidels in Africa. In spite of the prohibitions of their own government,
they bought Christians of kidnappers throughout Europe, and purchased the
captives of the pirates on the seas, to sell them again to the Saracens.
Nay, being an ingenious people, they turned their honest penny over and
over again: they sold the Christians to the Saracens, and then for certain
sums ransomed them and restored them to their countries; they sold
Saracens to the Christians, and plundered the infidels in similar
transactions of ransom and restoration. It is not easy to fix the dates of
the rise or fall of this slave-trade; but slavery continued in Venice as
late as the fifteenth century, and in earlier ages was so common that
every prosperous person had two or three slaves. [Footnote: Mutinelli,
_Del Costume Veneziano_. The present sketch of the history of
Venetian commerce is based upon facts chiefly drawn from Mutinelli's
delightful treatise, _Del Commercio dei Veneziani_.] The corruption
of the citizens at this time is properly attributed in part to the
existence of slavery among them; and Mutinelli goes so far as to declare
that the institution impressed permanent traits on the populace, rendering
them idle and indisposed to honest labor, by degrading labor and making it
the office of bondmen.

While this hateful and enormous traffic in man was growing up, the
Venetians enriched themselves by many other more blameless and legitimate
forms of commerce, and gradually gathered into their grasp that whole
trade of the East with Europe which passed through their hands for so many
ages. After the dominion of the Franks was established in Italy in the
eighth century, they began to supply that people, more luxurious than the
Lombards, with the costly stuffs, the rich jewelry, and the perfumes of
Byzantium; and held a great annual fair at the imperial city of Pavia,
where they sold the Franks the manufactures of the polished and effeminate
Greeks, and whence in return they carried back to the East the grain,
wine, wool, iron, lumber, and excellent armor of Lombardy.

From the time when they had assisted the Longobards against the Greeks,
the Venetians found it to their interest to cultivate the friendship of
the latter, until, in the twelfth century, they mastered the people so
long caressed, and took their capital, under Enrico Dandolo. The
privileges conceded to the wily and thrifty republican traders by the
Greek Emperors, were extraordinary in their extent and value. Otho, the
western Caesar, having succeeded the Franks in the dominion of Italy, had
already absolved the Venetians from the annual tribute paid the Italian
kings for the liberty of traffic, and had declared their commerce free
throughout the Peninsula. In the mean time they had attacked and beaten
the pirates of Dalmatia, and the Greeks now recognized their rule all over
Dalmatia, thus securing to the Republic every port on the eastern shores
of the Adriatic. Then, as they aided the Greeks to repel the aggressions
of the Saracens and Normans, their commerce was declared free in all the
ports of the empire, and they were allowed to trade without restriction in
all the cities, and to build warehouses and dépôts throughout the
dominions of the Greeks, wherever they chose. The harvest they reaped from
the vast field thus opened to their enterprise, must have more than
compensated them for their losses in the barbarization of the Italian
continent by the incessant civil wars which followed the disruption of the
Lombard League, when trade and industry languished throughout Italy. When
the Crusaders had taken the Holy Land, the king of Jerusalem bestowed upon
the Venetians, in return for important services against the infidel, the
same privileges conceded them by the Greek Emperor; and when, finally,
Constantinople fell into the hands of the Crusaders, (whom they had
skillfully diverted from the reconquest of Palestine to the siege of the
Greek metropolis,) nearly all the Greek islands fell to the share of
Venice; and the Latin emperors, who succeeded the Greeks in dominion, gave
her such privileges as made her complete mistress of the commerce of the

From this opulent traffic the insatiable enterprise of the Republic
turned, without relinquishing the old, to new gains in the farthest
Orient. Against her trade the exasperated infidel had closed the Egyptian
ports, but she did not scruple to coax the barbarous prince of the
Scythian Tartars, newly descended upon the shores of the Black Sea; and
having secured his friendship, she proceeded, without imparting her design
to her Latin allies at Constantinople, to plant a commercial colony at the
mouth of the Don, where the city of Azof stands. Through this entrepôt,
thenceforward, Venetian energy, with Tartar favor, directed the entire
commerce of Asia with Europe, and incredibly enriched the Republic. The
vastness and importance of such a trade, even at that day, when the wants
of men were far simpler and fewer than now, could hardly be over-stated;
and one nation then monopolized the traffic which is now free to the whole
world. The Venetians bought their wares at the great marts of Samarcand,
and crossed the country of Tartary in caravans to the shores of the
Caspian Sea, where they set sail and voyaged to the River Volga, which
they ascended to the point of its closest proximity to the Don. Their
goods were then transported overland to the Don, and were again carried by
water down to their mercantile colony at its mouth. Their ships, having
free access to the Black Sea, could, after receiving their cargoes, return
direct to Venice. The products of every country of Asia were carried into
Europe by these dauntless traffickers, who, enlightened and animated by
the travels and discoveries of Matteo, Nicolò, and Marco Polo, penetrated
the remotest regions, and brought away the treasures which the prevalent
fears and superstitions of other nations would have deterred them from
seeking, even if they had possessed the means of access to them.

The partial civilization of the age of chivalry had now reached its
climax, and the class which had felt its refining effects was that best
able to gratify the tastes still unknown to the great mass of the ignorant
and impoverished people. It was a splendid time, and the robber counts and
barons of the continent, newly tamed and Christianized into knights, spent
splendidly, as became magnificent cavaliers serving noble ladies. The
Venetians, who seldom did merely heroic things, who turned the Crusades to
their own account and made money out of the Holy Land, and whom one always
fancies as having a half scorn of the noisy grandeur of chivalry, were
very glad to supply the knights and ladies with the gorgeous stuffs,
precious stones, and costly perfumes of the East; and they now also began
to establish manufactories, and to practice the industrial arts at home.
Their jewelers and workers in precious metals soon became famous
throughout Europe; the glass-works of Murano rose into celebrity and
importance which they have never since lost (for they still supply the
world with beads); and they began to weave stuffs of gold tissue at
Venice, and silks so exquisitely dyed that no cavalier or dame of perfect
fashion was content with any other. Besides this they gilded leather for
lining walls, wove carpets, and wrought miracles of ornament in wax,--a
material that modern taste is apt to disdain,--while Venetian candles in
chandeliers of Venetian glass lighted up the palaces of the whole
civilized world.

The private enterprise of citizens was in every way protected and
encouraged by the State, which did not, however, fail to make due and just
profit out of it. The ships of the merchants always sailed to and from
Venice in fleets, at stated seasons, seven fleets departing annually,--one
for the Greek dominions, a second for Azof, a third for Trebizond, a
fourth for Cyprus, a fifth for Armenia, a sixth for Spain, France, the Low
Countries, and England, and a seventh for Africa. Each squadron of traders
was accompanied and guarded from attacks of corsairs and other enemies, by
a certain number of the state galleys, let severally to the highest
bidders for the voyage, at a price never less than about five hundred
dollars of our money. The galleys were all manned and armed by the State,
and the crew of each amounted to three hundred persons; including a
captain, four supercargoes, eight pilots, two carpenters, two calkers, a
master of the oars, fifty cross-bowmen, three drummers, and two hundred
rowers. The State also appointed a commandant of the whole squadron, with
absolute authority to hear complaints, decide controversies, and punish

While the Republic was thus careful in the protection and discipline of
its citizens in their commerce upon the seas, it was no less zealous for
their security and its own dignity in their traffic with the continent of
Europe. In that rude day, neither the life nor the property of the
merchant who visited the ultramontane countries was safe; for the sorry
device which he practiced, of taking with him a train of apes, buffoons,
dancers, and singers, in order to divert his ferocious patrons from
robbery and murder, was not always successful. The Venetians, therefore,
were forbidden by the State to trade in those parts; and the Bohemians,
Germans, and Hungarians, who wished to buy their wares, were obliged to
come to the lagoons and buy them at the great marts which were held in
different parts of the city, and on the neighboring main-land. A triple
purpose was thus served,--the Venetian merchants were protected in their
lives and goods, the national honor was saved from insult, and many an
honest zecchino was turned by the innkeepers and others who lodged and
entertained the customers of the merchants.

Five of these great fairs were held every week, the chief market being at
Rialto; and the transactions in trade were carefully supervised by the
servants of the State. Among the magistracies especially appointed for the
orderly conduct of the foreign and domestic commerce were the so-called
Mercantile Consuls (_Ufficio dei Consoli dei Mercanti_), whose
special duty it was to see that the traffic of the nation received no hurt
from the schemes of any citizen or foreigner, and to punish offenses of
this kind with banishment and even graver penalties. They measured every
ship about to depart, to learn if her cargo exceeded the lawful amount;
they guarded creditors against debtors and protected poor debtors against
the rapacity of creditors, and they punished thefts sustained by the
merchants. It is curious to find contemporary with this beneficent
magistracy, a charge of equal dignity exercised by the College of
Reprisals. A citizen offended in his person or property abroad, demanded
justice of the government of the country in which the offense was
committed. If the demand was refused, it was repeated by the Republic; if
still refused, then the Republic, although at peace with the nation from
which the offense came, seized any citizen of that country whom it could
find, and, through its College of Reprisals, spoiled him of sufficient
property to pay the damage done to its citizen. Finally, besides several
other magistracies resident in Venice, the Republic appointed Consuls in
its colonies and some foreign ports, to superintend the traffic of its
citizens, and to compose their controversies. The Consuls were paid out of
duties levied on the merchandise; they were usually nobles, and acted with
the advice and consent of twelve other Venetian nobles or merchants.

At this time, and, indeed, throughout its existence, the great lucrative
monopoly of the Republic was the salt manufactured in the lagoons, and
forced into every market, at rates that no other salt could compete with.
Wherever alien enterprise attempted rivalry, it was instantly discouraged
by Venice. There were troublesome salt mines, for example, in Croatia; and
in 1381 the Republic caused them to be closed by paying the King of
Hungary an annual pension of seven thousand crowns of gold. The exact
income of the State, however, from the monopoly of salt, or from the
various imposts and duties levied upon merchandise, it is now difficult to
know, and it is impossible to compute accurately the value or extent of
Venetian commerce at any one time. It reached the acme of its prosperity
under Tommaso Mocenigo, who was Doge from 1414 to 1423. There were then
three thousand and three hundred vessels of the mercantile marine, giving
employment to thirty-three thousand seamen, and netting to their owners a
profit of forty per cent, on the capital invested. How great has been the
decline of this trade may be understood from the fact that in 1863 it
amounted, according to the careful statistics of the Chamber of Commerce,
to only $60,229,740, and that the number of vessels now owned in Venice is
one hundred and fifty. As the total tonnage of these is but 26,000, it may
be inferred that they are small craft, and in fact they are nearly all
coasting vessels. They no longer bring to Venice the drugs and spices and
silks of Samarcand, or carry her own rare manufactures to the ports of
western Europe; but they sail to and from her canals with humble freights
of grain, lumber, and hemp. Almost as many Greek as Venetian ships now
visit the old queen, who once levied a tax upon every foreign vessel in
her Adriatic; and the shipping from the cities of the kingdom of Italy
exceeds hers by ninety sail, while the tonnage of Great Britain is vastly
greater. Her commerce has not only wasted to the shadow of its former
magnitude, but it has also almost entirely lost its distinctive character.
Glass of Murano is still exported to a value of about two millions of
dollars annually; but in this industry, as in nearly all others of the
lagoons, there is an annual decline. The trade of the port falls off from
one to three millions of dollars yearly, and the manufacturing interests
of the province have dwindled in the same proportion. So far as silk is
concerned, there has been an immediate cause for the decrease in the
disease which has afflicted the cocoons for several years past. Wine and
oil are at present articles of import solely,--the former because of a
malady of the grape, the latter because of negligent cultivation of the

A considerable number of persons are still employed in the manufacture of
objects of taste and ornament; and in the Ruga Vecchia at Rialto they yet
make the famous Venetian gold chain, which few visitors to the city can
have failed to notice hanging in strands and wound upon spools, in the
shop windows of the Old Procuratie and the Bridge of Rialto. It is wrought
of all degrees of fineness, and is always so flexile that it may be folded
and wound in any shape. It is now no longer made in great quantity, and is
chiefly worn by contadine (as a safe investment of their ready money),
[Footnote: Certain foreigners living in Venice were one day astonished to
find their maid-servant in possession of a mass of this chain, and thought
it their business to reprove her extravagance. "Signori," she explained
paradoxically, "if I keep my money, I spend it; if I buy this chain, it is
always money (_è sempre soldi_)."] and old-fashioned people of the
city, who display the finer sort in skeins or strands. At Chioggia, I
remember to have seen a babe at its christening in church literally
manacled and shackled with Venetian chain; and the little girl who came to
us one day, to show us the splendors in which she had appeared at a
_disputa_ (examination of children in doctrine), was loaded with it.
Formerly, in the luxurious days of the Republic, it is said the chain was
made as fine as sewing-silk, and worn embroidered on Genoa velvet by the
patrician dames. It had then a cruel interest from the fact that its
manufacture, after a time, cost the artisans their eyesight, so nice and
subtle was the work. I could not help noticing that the workmen at the
shops in the Ruga Vecchia still suffer in their eyes, even though the work
is much coarser. I do not hope to describe the chain, except by saying
that the links are horseshoe and oval shaped, and are connected by twos,--
an oval being welded crosswise into a horseshoe, and so on, each two being
linked loosely into the next.

An infinitely more important art, in which Venice was distinguished a
thousand years ago, has recently been revived there by Signor Salviati, an
enthusiast in mosaic painting. His establishment is on the Grand Canal,
not far from the Academy, and you might go by the old palace quite
unsuspicious of the ancient art stirring with new life in its breast. "A.
Salviati, Avvocato," is the legend of the bell-pull, and you do not by any
means take this legal style for that of the restorer of a neglected art,
and a possessor of forgotten secrets in gilded glass and "smalts," as they
term the small delicate rods of vitreous substance, with which the wonders
of the art are achieved. But inside of the palace are some two hundred
artisans at work,--cutting the smalts and glass into the minute fragments
of which the mosaics are made, grinding and smoothing these fragments,
polishing the completed works, and reproducing, with incredible patience
and skill, the lights and shadows of the pictures to be copied.

You first enter the rooms of those whose talent distinguishes them as
artists, and in whose work all the wonderful neatness and finish and long-
suffering toil of the Byzantines are visible, as well as original life and
inspiration alike impossible and profane to the elder mosaicists. Each
artist has at hand a great variety of the slender stems of smalts already
mentioned, and breaking these into minute fragments as he proceeds, he
inserts them in the bed of cement prepared to receive his picture, and
thus counterfeits in enduring mineral the perishable work of the painter.

In other rooms artisans are at work upon various tasks of
_marqueterie_,--table-tops, album-covers, paper-weights, brooches,
pins and the like,--and in others they are sawing the smalts and glass
into strips, and grinding the edges. Passing through yet another room,
where the finished mosaic-works--of course not the pictorial mosaics--are
polished by machinery, we enter the store-room, where the crowded shelves
display blocks of smalts and glass of endless variety of color. By far the
greater number of these colors are discoveries or improvements of the
venerable mosaicist Lorenzo Radi, who has found again the Byzantine
secrets of counterfeiting, in vitreous paste, aventurine (gold stone),
onyx, chalcedony, malachite, and other natural stones, and who has been
praised by the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice for producing mosaics even
more durable in tint and workmanship than those of the Byzantine artists.

In an upper story of the palace a room is set apart for the exhibition of
the many beautiful and costly things which the art of the establishment
produces. Here, besides pictures in mosaic, there are cunningly inlaid
tables and cabinets, caskets, rich vases of chalcedony mounted in silver,
and delicately wrought jewelry, while the floor is covered with a mosaic
pavement ordered for the Viceroy of Egypt. There are here, moreover, to be
seen the designs furnished by the Crown Princess of Prussia for the
mosaics of the Queen's Chapel at Windsor. These, like all other pictures
and decorations in mosaic, are completed in the establishment on the Grand
Canal, and are afterward put up as wholes in the places intended for them.

In Venice nothing in decay is strange. But it is startling to find her in
her old age nourishing into fresh life an art that, after feebly
preserving the memory of painting for so many centuries, had decorated her
prime only with the glories of its decline;--for Kugler ascribes the
completion of the mosaics of the church of St. Cyprian in Murano to the
year 882, and the earliest mosaics of St. Mark's to the tenth or eleventh
centuries, when the Greek Church had already laid her ascetic hand on
Byzantine art, and fixed its conventional forms, paralyzed its motives,
and forbidden its inspirations. I think, however, one would look about him
in vain for other evidences of a returning prosperity in the lagoons. The
old prosperity of Venice, was based upon her monopoly of the most
lucrative traffic in the world, as we have already seen,--upon her
exclusive privileges in foreign countries, upon the enlightened zeal of
her government, and upon men's imperfect knowledge of geography, and the
barbarism of the rest of Europe, as well as upon the indefatigable
industry and intelligent enterprise of her citizens. America was still
undiscovered; the overland route to India was the only one known; the
people of the continent outside of Italy were unthrifty serfs, ruled and
ruined by unthrifty lords. The whole world's ignorance, pride, and sloth
were Venetian gain; and the religious superstitions of the day, which,
gross as they were, embodied perhaps its noblest and most hopeful
sentiment, were a source of incalculable profit to the sharp-witted
mistress of the Adriatic. It was the age of penances, pilgrimages, and
relic-hunting, and the wealth which she wrung from the devotion of others
was exceedingly great. Her ships carried the pilgrims to and from the Holy
Land; her adventurers ransacked Palestine and the whole Orient for the
bones and memorials of the saints; and her merchants sold the precious
relics throughout Europe at an immense advance upon first cost.

But the foundations of this prosperity were at last tapped by the tide of
wealth which poured into Venice from every quarter of the world. Her
citizens brought back the vices as well as the luxuries of the debauched
Orient, and the city became that seat of splendid idleness and proud
corruption which it continued till the Republic fell. It is needless here
to rehearse the story of her magnificence and decay. At the time when the
hardy, hungry people of other nations were opening paths to prosperity by
land and sea, the Venetians, gorged with the spoils of ages, relinquished
their old habits of daring enterprise, and dropped back into luxury and
indolence. Their incessant wars with the Genoese began, and though they
signally defeated the rival Republic in battle, Genoa finally excelled in
commerce. A Greek prince had arisen to dispute the sovereignty of the
Latin Emperors, whom the Venetians had helped to place upon the Byzantine
throne; the Genoese, seeing the favorable fortunes of the Greek, threw the
influence of their arms and intrigues in his favor, and the Latins were
expelled from Constantinople in 1271. The new Greek Emperor had promised
to give the sole navigation of the Black Sea to his allies, together with
the church and palaces possessed by the Venetians in his capital, and he
bestowed also upon the Genoese the city of Smyrna. It does not seem that
he fulfilled literally all his promises, for the Venetians still continued
to sail to and from their colony of Tana, at the head of the Sea of Azof,
though it is certain that they had no longer the sovereignty of those
waters; and the Genoese now planted on the shores of the Black Sea three
large and important colonies to serve as entrepôts for the trade taken
from their rivals. The oriental traffic of the latter was maintained
through Tana, however, for nearly two centuries later, when, in 1410, the
Mongol Tartars, under Tamerlane, fell upon the devoted colony, took,
sacked, burnt, and utterly destroyed it. This was the first terrible blow
to the most magnificent commerce which the world had ever seen, and which
had endured for ages. No wonder that, on the day of Tana's fall, terrible
portents of woe were seen at Venice,--that meteors appeared, that demons
rode the air, that the winds and waters rose and blew down houses and
swallowed ships! A thousand persons are said to have perished in the
calamities which commemorated a stroke so mortally disastrous to the
national grandeur. After that the Venetians humbly divided with their
ancient foes the possession and maintenance of the Genoese colony of
Caffa, and continued, with greatly diminished glory, their traffic in the
Black Sea; till the Turks having taken Constantinople, and the Greeks
having acquired under their alien masters a zeal for commerce unknown to
them during the times of their native princes, the Venetians were finally,
on the first pretext of war, expelled from those waters in which they had
latterly maintained themselves only by payment of heavy tribute to the

In the mean time the industrial arts, in which Venice had heretofore
excelled, began to be practiced elsewhere, and the Florentines and the
English took that lead in the manufactures of the world, which the latter
still retain. The league of the Hanseatic cities was established and rose
daily in importance. At London, at Bruges, at Bergen, and Novogorod banks
were opened under the protection and special favor of the Hanseatic
League; its ships were preferred to any other, and the tide of commerce
setting northward, the cities of the League persecuted the foreigners who
would have traded in their ports. On the west, Barcelona began to dispute
the preëminence of Venice in the Mediterranean, and Spanish salt was
brought to Italy itself and sold by the enterprising Catalonians. Their
corsairs vexed Venetian commerce everywhere; and in that day, as in our
own, private English enterprise was employed in piratical depredations on
the traffic of a friendly power.

The Portuguese also began to extend their commerce, once so important, and
catching the rage for discovery then prevalent, infested every sea in
search of unknown land. One of their navigators, sailing by a chart which
a monk named Fra Mauro, in his convent on the island of San Michele, had
put together from the stories of travelers, and his own guesses at
geography, discovered the Cape of Good Hope, and the trade of India with
Europe was turned in that direction, and the old over-land traffic
perished. The Venetian monopoly of this traffic had long been gone; had
its recovery been possible, it would now have been useless to the
declining prosperity of the Republic.

It remained for Christopher Columbus, born of that Genoese nation which
had hated the Venetians so long and so bitterly, to make the discovery of
America, and thus to give the death-blow to the supremacy of Venice. While
all these discoveries were taking place, the old queen of the seas had
been weighed down with many and unequal wars. Her naval power had been
everywhere crippled; her revenues had been reduced; her possessions, one
after one, had been lopped away; and at the time Columbus was on his way
to America half Europe, united in the League of Cambray, was attempting to
crush the Republic of Venice.

The whole world was now changed. Commerce sought new channels; fortune
smiled on other nations. How Venice dragged onward from the end of her
commercial greatness, and tottered with a delusive splendor to her
political death, is surely one of the saddest of stories if not the
sternest of lessons.



The national character of the Venetians was so largely influenced by the
display and dissipation of the frequent festivals of the Republic, that it
cannot be fairly estimated without taking them into consideration, nor can
the disuse of these holidays (of which I have heretofore spoken) be
appreciated in all its import, without particular allusion to their number
and nature. They formed part of the aristocratic polity of the old
commonwealth, which substituted popular indulgence for popular liberty,
and gave the people costly pleasures in return for the priceless rights of
which they had been robbed, set up national pride in the place of
patriotism, and was as well satisfied with a drunken joy in its subjects
as if they had possessed a true content.

Full notice of these holidays would be history [Footnote: "Siccome," says
the editor of Giustina Renier-Michiel's _Origine delle Feste
Veneziane_,--"Siccome l'illustre Autrice ha voluto applicare al suo
lavoro il modesto titolo di _Origins delle Feste Veneziane_, e
siccome questo potrebbe porgere un' idea assai diversa dell' opera a chi
non ne ha alcuna cognizione, da quello che è sostanzialmente, si espone
questo Epitome, perchè ognun regga almeno in parte, che quest' opera
sarebbe del titolo di _storia_ condegna, giacchè essa non è che una
costante descrizione degli avvenimenti più importanti e luminosi della
Repubblica di Venezia." The work in question is one of much research and
small philosophy, like most books which Venetians have written upon
Venice; but it has admirably served my purpose, and I am indebted to it
for most of the information contained in this chapter.] of Venice, for
each one had its origin in some great event of her existence, and they
were so numerous as to commemorate nearly every notable incident in her
annals. Though, as has been before observed, they had nearly all a general
religious character, the Church, as usual in Venice, only seemed to direct
the ceremonies in its own honor, while it really ministered to the
political glory of the oligarchy, which knew how to manage its priests as
well as its prince and people. Nay, it happened in one case, at least,
that a religious anniversary was selected by the Republic as the day on
which to put to shame before the populace certain of the highest and
reverendest dignitaries of the Church. In 1162, Ulrich, the Patriarch of
Aquileja, seized, by a treacherous stratagem, the city of Grado, then
subject to Venice. The Venetians immediately besieged and took the city,
with the patriarch and twelve of his canons in it, and carried them
prisoners to the lagoons. The turbulent patriarchs of Aquileja had long
been disturbers of the Republic's dominion, and the people now determined
to make an end of these displeasures. They refused, therefore, to release
the patriarch, except on condition that he should bind himself to send
them annually a bull and twelve fat hogs. It is not known what meaning the
patriarch attached to this singular ceremony; but with the Venetians the
bull was typical of himself, and the swine of his canons, and they yearly
suffered death in these animals, which were slaughtered during Shrovetide
in the Piazza San Marco amid a great concourse of the people, in the
presence of the Doge and Signory. The locksmiths, and other workers in
iron, had distinguished themselves in the recapture of Grado, and to their
guild was allotted the honor of putting to death the bull and swine. Great
art was shown in striking off the bull's head at one blow, without
suffering the sword to touch the ground after passing through the animal's
neck; the swine were slain with lances. Athletic games among the people
succeeded, and the Doge and his Senators attacked and destroyed, with
staves, several lightly built wooden castles, to symbolize the abasement
of the feudal power before the Republic. As the centuries advanced this
part of the ceremony, together with the slaughter of the swine, was
disused; in which fact Mr. Ruskin sees evidence of a corrupt disdain of
simple and healthy allegory on the part of the proud doges, but in which I
think most people will discern only a natural wish to discontinue in more
civilized times a puerile barbarity. Mr. Ruskin himself finds no evidence
of "state pride" in the abolition of the slaughter of the swine. The
festival was very popular, and continued a long time, though I believe not
till the fall of the Republic.

Another tribute, equally humiliating to those who paid it, was imposed
upon the Paduans for an insult offered to St. Mark, and gave occasion for
a national holiday, some fifty years after the Patriarch of Aquileja began
atonement for his outrage. In the year 1214, the citizens of Treviso made
an entertainment to which they invited the noble youth of the surrounding
cities. In the chief piazza of the town a castle of wood exquisitely
decorated was held against all comers by a garrison of the fairest
Trevisan damsels. The weapons of defense were flowers, fruits, bonbons,
and the bright eyes of the besieged; while the missiles of attack were
much the same, with whatever added virtue might lie in tender prayers and
sugared supplications. Padua, Vicenza, Bassano, and Venice sent their
gallantest youths, under their municipal banners, to take part in this
famous enterprise; and the attack was carried on by the leagued forces
with great vigor, but with no effect on the Castle of Love, as it was
called, till the Venetians made a breach at a weak point. These young men
were better skilled in the arts of war than their allies; they were
richer, and had come to Treviso decked in the spoils of the recent sack of
Constantinople, and at the moment they neared the castle it is reported
that they corrupted the besieged by throwing handfuls of gold into the
tower. Whether this be true or not, it is certain that the conduct of the
Venetians in some manner roused the Paduans to insult, and that the hot
youths came to blows. In an instant the standard of St. Mark was thrown
down and trampled under the feet of the furious Paduans; blood flowed, and
the indignant Trevisans drove the combatants out of their city. The spark
of war spreading to the rival cities, the Paduans were soon worsted, and
three hundred of their number were made prisoners. These they would
willingly have ransomed at any price, but their enemies would not release
them except on the payment of two white pullets for each warrior. The
shameful ransom was paid in the Piazza, to the inextinguishable delight of
the Venetians, who, never wanting in sharp and biting wit, abandoned
themselves to sarcastic exultation. They demanded that the Paduans should,
like the patriarch, repeat the tribute annually; but the prudent Doge
Ziani judged the single humiliation sufficient, and refused to establish a
yearly celebration of the feast.

One of the most famous occasional festivals of Venice is described by
Petrarch in a Latin letter to his friend Pietro Bolognese. It was in
celebration of the reduction of the Greeks of Candia, an island which in
1361 had recently been ceded to the Republic. The Candiotes rose in
general rebellion, but were so promptly subdued that the news of the
outbreak scarcely anticipated the announcement of its suppression in
Venice. Petrarch was at this time the guest of the Republic, and from his
seat at the right of the Doge on the gallery of St. Mark's Church, in
front of the bronze horses, he witnessed the chivalric shows given in the
Piazza below, which was then unpaved, and admirably adapted for equestrian
feats of arms. It is curious to read the poet's account of these in a city
where there is now no four-footed beast larger than a dog. But in the age
of chivalry even the Venetians were mounted, and rode up and down their
narrow streets, and jousted in their great campos.

Speaking of twenty-four noble and handsome youths, whose feats formed a
chief part of a show of which he "does not know if in the whole world
there has been seen the equal," Petrarch says: "It was a gentle sight to
see so many youths decked in purple and gold, as they ruled with the rein
and urged with the spur their coursers, moving in glittering harness, with
iron-shod feet which scarcely seemed to touch the ground." And it must
have been a noble sight, indeed, to behold all this before the "golden
façade of the temple," in a place so packed with spectators "that a grain
of barley could not have fallen to the ground. The great piazza, the
church itself, the towers, the roofs, the arcades, the windows, all were--
I will not say full, but running over, walled and paved with people." At
the right of the church was built a great platform, on which sat "four
hundred honestest gentlewomen, chosen from the flower of the nobility, and
distinguished in their dress and bearing, who, amid the continual homage
offered them morning, noon, and night, presented the image of a celestial
congress." Some noblemen, come hither by chance, "from the part of
Britain, comrades and kinsmen of their King, were present," and attracted
the notice of the poet. The feasts lasted many days, but on the third day
Petrarch excused himself to the Doge, pleading, he says, his "ordinary
occupations, already known to all."

Among remoter feasts in honor of national triumphs, was one on the Day of
the Annunciation, commemorative of the removal of the capital of the
Venetian isles to Rialto from Malamocco, after King Pepin had burnt the
latter city, and when, advancing on Venice, he was met in the lagoons and
beaten by the islanders and the tides: these by their recession stranding
his boats in the mud, and those falling upon his helpless host with the
fury of an insulted and imperiled people. The Doge annually assisted at
mass in St. Mark's in honor of the victory, but not long afterward the
celebration of it ceased, as did that of a precisely similar defeat of the
Hungarians, who had just descended from Asia into Europe. In 1339 there
were great rejoicings in the Piazza for the peace with Mastino della
Scala, who, beaten by the Republic, ceded his city of Treviso to her.

Doubtless the most splendid of all the occasional festivals was that held
for the Venetian share of the great Christian victory at Lepanto over the
Turks. All orders of the State took part in it; but the most remarkable
feature of the celebration was the roofing of the Merceria, all the way
from St. Mark's to Rialto, with fine blue cloth, studded with golden stars
to represent the firmament, as the shopkeepers imagined it. The pictures
of the famous painters of that day, Titian, Tintoretto, Palma, and the
rest, were exposed under this canopy, at the end near Rialto. Later, the


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