Happy birthday Venice: today the Lady of the Mediterranean turns 1600 and she's ageing beautifully!
According to tradition, the city was founded on March 25, 421 AD even if archaeological evidence shows that the Veneti people (Venetians: this explains the etymological origin of the name) had settled on that inhospitable archipelago at the mouth of Medoacus river already in pre-roman times.
Although this date has been commonly recognized for centuries in at least two documents, historians do not agree on its accuracy, since that period was marked by the evolution of continuous migratory flows. However, by convention, the foundation of Venice is testified by the manuscript source of the Chronicon Altinate dating back to the 11th century (not a real chronicle but a collection of documents and legends for the creation of a "civic dignity") and more recently from the diaries of Marin Sanudo, who, describing the great fire at Rialto area in 1514, reports that only the church of San Giacometo built in 421 and consecrated on March 25, the day of the foundation of the city, was miraculously unharmed.
But why this particular date?
According to the Scriptures, March 25th is the day of the Annunciation, or the day on which Archangel Gabriel "announce" Mary she would conceive and become mother of Jesus. And what does it have to do with Venice? We actually find this recurring theme in many of the City architectures, paintings and sculptures: from the façade of Saint Mark's Basilica to the eastern side of Rialto Bridge. Saint Gabriel also dominates the city from the top of the Saint Mark's bell tower while the Madonna is depicted and sculpted almost everywhere: from the Clock Tower, to the Doge's Palace, to various churches and devotional schools throughout the Venetian lagoon
Saint Mary is the first patron Saint of the City since very remote times, so much so that the founding fathers believed that the city began to exist thanks to divine intercession "in order to raise the freedom and nobility of Italy - writes Sansovino- which had to go completely in ruins due to the leaving of Constantine”. In short, as on March 25th the Virgin is blessed with the immaculate conception of Jesus the Savior of the world, so on the same day Venice comes to be to resume the legacy of Rome, now decadent for having left power in Constantinople (we Venetians are always modest!).
What is certain is that over the centuries this "divine" aura, both sacred and mythological, has been consolidated and manifested in wonderful allegories that the masters of Venetian painting have left us, especially in the Doge's Palace.
There are big projects in the pipeline for this special (in every sense) anniversary. The events are scheduled from today and for 365 days. Many will be streaming but most will properly (finger crossed) celebrate the 1600th anniversary of Venice in the year of the world rebirth.
Keep an eye on this website https://1600.venezia.it/
And if you want to immerse yourself in the origins of the lagoon city, follow me in this unusual tour experience
Let's not forget that today there's another very important anniversary: it's 700 years since the death of Dante Alighieri, who wrote about VeniceArsenal, on the XXI canto ofInferno:
Quale ne l’arzanà de’ Viniziani
bolle l’inverno la tenace pece
a rimpalmare i legni lor non sani,
ché navicar non ponno – in quella vece
chi fa suo legno novo e chi ristoppa
le coste a quel che più viaggi fece;
chi ribatte da proda e chi da poppa;
altri fa remi e altri volge sarte;
chi terzeruolo e artimon rintoppa -;
So: thousand happy returns to you my Venice, my lymph of beauty, only you and I know what you give me.