Venezia la Serenissima: La Fenice Opera House, the Academy of Sciences, St. Mark’s Library, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Biennale, the Doge’s Palace with its infamous lead chambers and the Bridge of Sighs, Harry’s Bar, the Arsenale Fortress, 100 islands, 150 canals, 400 bridges, over 600 historically significant buildings and St. Mark’s Square: Venice UNESCO World Heritage Site: the lagoon city is now considered the cultural center of Europe and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 along with the lagoon.
VENICE AND THE AQUA ALTA
In the present, Venice continues to struggle with the Aqua Alta, but the flood is not the only threat to Venice. An initiative (No Grandi Navi) opposes the passage of large (cruise) ships and their consequences, whose unfiltered exhaust fumes cause lasting damage to the ancient facades of palazzi and other buildings. Venice has the highest lung cancer rate in Italy because of the many exhaust gases, and the diesel engines of the large cruisers are a dangerously large addition – not only to the buildings. In addition, the shipping channel has to be dredged again and again for the large ships, which makes the effect of the high water just as bad. To make matters worse, UNESCO recently threatened to revoke Venice’s heritage status again if the situation regarding cruise ships does not improve by February 2017.
VENICE AND MO.S.E
The controversial large-scale MO.S.E1 project is also intended to protect Venice from the consequences of flooding in the long term. The billion-dollar project brought to light a corruption scandal in which the then-mayor of Venice and 34 other politicians and contractors were arrested and placed under house arrest for money laundering, embezzlement and extortion while in office. With the total construction cost of about six billion euros, one billion euros is believed to have been embezzled.
VENICE – ORIGIN OF THE LAGOON CITY
Venice – today the capital of the Veneto region with a population of around 263,000 – looks back on a very eventful history: after Attila destroyed Aquileia2 in 452 A.D., the Venetian population piled onto the lagoon islands located in the Adriatic Sea. In the course of time, the island of Rialto3, with the seat of the Byzantine Doge, became the center of Venice. Since the 9th century, Byzantine influence waned, and the Doge’s attempt to create a hereditary monarchy failed in the 11th century. The doge’s power was then limited in 1172 by the ‚Great Council of the Republic‘.
VENICE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE – MARKUS SQUARE AND THE COLUMN WITH THE WINGED LION
In 827/`28 the bones of St. Mark (St. Mark’s Square) stolen in Alexandria were transferred to Venice, they disappeared and mysteriously reappeared in 1094. Since their recovery, the name of „Republic of San Marco“ has been more and more externalized.
VENICE AND GENOA – 100 YEARS OF WAR
The wealth accumulating population of Venice was already profiting from trade and shipping at this time. Likewise, Venice expanded its territory and gained an economic monopoly position in the Byzantine Empire, facing only Genoa as antagonist. The St. Mark’s Column with the winged lion marked the Venetian sphere of influence outside the city. The so-called Hundred Years‘ War between Genoa and Venice was not decided until 1380, when the Genoese fleet was defeated at Chioggia.4 The Peace of Turin in 1381 secured the aforementioned monopoly position of Venice in the Eastern Mediterranean.
VENICE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE – CULTURAL FLOWERING AND INCIPIENT DECLINE
Subsequently, Venice extended its rule to northeastern Italy from the end of the 14th century,5 but the Turks began to conquer Venetian bases in the eastern Mediterranean in the late 15th century (Euboea around 1470). Through the work of several humanists and artists, Venice reached its cultural and artistic peak in the 15th and 16th centuries.6
VENICE IN MODERN TIMES
The shift of world trade to the Atlantic from the beginning of modern times and the severe Turkish wars in the 16th and 17th centuries caused the economic decline of the Serenissima as well as the loss of colonial possessions in the eastern Mediterranean (Levant). Venice had nothing to oppose Napoleon’s conquest; he occupied Venice without resistance in May 1797 and overthrew the aristocracy. Another act of Napoleon in this context is the closure of the Venetian Jewish ghetto in the same year.
VENICE IN THE POST MERCANTILIST ERA
In 1814/15 Veneto fell to Austria, in 1848 the independent Republic of Venice was proclaimed, and in 1849 it was reconquered by Austria. In 1866 Venice was ceded and united with the Kingdom of Italy.
VENICE IN THE AGE OF THE WORLD WARS
In World War I, Venice, of all places, was the target of more than 40 Austro-Hungarian air raids, which were relatively rare compared to the bombing campaign of World War II. The Italian fascists attempted to turn Venice into an industrial region and expanded the city to the mainland.7 During World War II, Venice came under the rule of Nazi Germany after the fall of Mussolini, and as a result the remaining part of the Jewish community was deported to extermination camps and murdered.
VENICE UNESCO WORLD CULTURAL HERITAGE IN THE PRESENT DAY
Today Venice is considered the cultural center of Europe, and in this respect the epithet of the city mentioned in the title is absolutely valid.8 Venice is an open-air museum of the Renaissance and absolutely unique in the world – despite the well-known comparisons with Saint Petersburg and Amsterdam. Every person should have seen Venice at least once, despite the frightening mass tourism. Again and again Venice got into the list of endangered UNESCO world cultural heritage, also because of the finally consolidated situation with the huge cruise ships, which meanwhile have to call at another port near Venice.
To see the image caption in English click on the circular infopictogram on the right below the enlarged photo.