Grant Allen.

Venice; Grant Allen's historical guide books to the principal cities of Europe treating concisely and thoroughly of the principal historic and artistic points of interest therein online

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I. PARIS. By Grant Allen

{Second Edition).
II. FLORENCE. By Grant Allen

{Second Edition).


By Grant Allen.

IV. VENICE. By Grant Allen.

ITALY. By Geo. C. Williamson, Litt.D.


Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Cruickshank.







■» » » -I







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THE object and plan of these Historical Handbooks is
somewhat different from that of any other guides at
present before the public. They do not compete or clash
with such existing works ; they are rather intended to
supplement than to supplant them. My purpose is not to
direct the stranger through the streets and squares of an
unknown town towards the buildings or sights which he
may desire to visit ; still less is it my design to give him
practical information about hotels, cab fares, omnibuses, tram-
ways, and other every-day material conveniences. For such
details, the traveller must still have recourse to the trusty
pages of his Baedeker, his Joanne, or his Murray. I desire
rather to supply the tourist who wishes to use his travel as a
means of culture with such historical and antiquarian in-
formation as will enable him to understand, and therefore to
enjoy, the architecture, sculpture, painting, and minor arts of
the towns he visits. In one word, it is my object to give the
reader in a very compendious form the result of all those
inquiries which have naturally suggested themselves to my
own mind during thirty-five years of foreign travel, the solution
of which has cost myself a good deal of research, thought, and
labour, beyond the facts which I could find in the ordinary

For several years past I have devoted myself to collecting
and arranging material for a set of books to embody the idea

373 1 52


[ had thos erxtevlaincd. I earnestly hope they may meet a
want on the part of tourists, especially Americans, who, so far
as my experience goes, usually come to Europe with an honest
and reverent desire to learn from the Old World whatever of
value it has to teach them, and who are prepared to take an
amount of pains in turning their trip to good account which
is both rare and praiseworthy For such readers I shall call
attention at times to other sources of information.

These guide-books will deal more particularly with the Great
Towns where objects of art and antiquity are numerous.
In every one of them, the general plan pursued will be some-
what as follows. First will come the inquiry why a town ever
gathered together at all at that particular spot— what inducec
the aggregation of human beings rather there than elsewhere.
Next, we shall consider why that town grew to social or political
importance and what were the stages by which it assumed its
present shape. Thirdly, we shall ask why it gave rise to that
higher form of handicraft which we know as Art, and towards
what particular arts it especially gravitated. After that, we
shall take in detail the various strata of its growth or develop-
ment, examining the buildings and works of art which they
contain in historical order, and, as far as possible, tracing the
causes which led to their evolution. In particular, we shall
lay stress upon the origin and meaning of each structure as
an organic whole, and upon the allusions or symbols which
its fabric embodies.

A single instance will show the method upon which I intend
to proceed better than any amount of general description.
A church, as a rule, is built over the body or relics of a
particular saint, in whose special honour it was originally
erected. That saint was usually one of great local importance
at the moment of its erection, or was peculiarly implored


against plague, foreign enemies, or some other pressing and
dreaded misfortune. In dealing with such a church, then, I
endeavour to show what were the circumstances which led to
its erection, and what memorials of these circumstances it still
retains. In other cases it may derive its origin from some
special monastic body — Benedictine, Dominican, Franciscan —
and may therefore be full of the peculiar symbolism and his-
torical allusion of the order who founded it. Wherever I have
to deal with such a church, I try as far as possible to exhibit
the effect which its origin had upon its architecture and decora-
tion ; to trace the image of the patron saint in sculpture or
stained glass throughout the fabric ; and to set forth the con-
nection of the whole design with time and place, with order
and purpose. In short, instead of looking upon monuments
of the sort mainly as the product of this or that architect, I
look upon them rather as material embodiments of the spirit
of the age — crystallizations, as it were, in stone and bronze, in
form and colour, of great popular enthusiasms.

By thus concentrating attention on what is essential and
important in a town, I hope to give in a comparatively short
space, though with inevitable conciseness, a fuller account than
is usually given of the chief architectural and monumental
works of the principal art-cities. In dealing with Paris, for
example, I shall have little to say about such modern con-
structions as the Champs Elysees or the Eiffel Tower ; still
less, of course, about the Morgue, the Catacombs, the waxworks
of the Musee Grevin, and the celebrated Excursion in the Paris
Sewers. The space thus saved from vulgar wonders I shall
hope to devote to fuller explanation of Notre-Dame and the
Sainte Chapelle, of the mediaeval carvings or tapestries of
Cluny, and of the pictures or sculptures in the galleries of the
Louvre. Similarly in Florence, whatever I save from descrip-


tion of the Cascine and even of the beautiful Viale dei Colli
(where explanation is needless and word-painting superfluous),
I shall give up to the Bargello, the Uffizi, and the Pitti Palace.
The passing life of the moment does not enter into my plan ;
I regard each town I endeavour to illustrate mainly as a
museum of its own history

For this reason, too, I shall devote most attention in every
case to what is locally illustrative, and less to what is merely
adventitious and foreign. In Paris, for instance, I shall have
more to say about truly Parisian art and history, as embodied
in St. Denis, the tie de la Cite, and the shrine of Ste. Genevieve,
than about the Egyptian and Assyrian collections of the Louvre.
In Florence, again, I shall deal rather with the Etruscan re-
mains, with Giotto and Fra Angelico, with the Duomo and the
Campanile, than with the admirable Memlincks and Rubenses
of the Uffizi and the Pitti, or with the beautiful Van der Goes
of the Hospital of Santa Maria. In Bruges and Brussels,
once more, I shall be especially Flemish ; in the Rhine towns,
Rhenish ; in Venice, Venetian. I shall assign a due amount
of space, indeed, to the foreign collections, but I shall call
attention chiefly to those monuments or objects which are of
entirely local and typical value.

As regards the character of the information given, it will be
mainly historical, antiquarian, and, above all, explanatory.
I am not a connoisseur— an adept in the difficult modern
science of distinguishing the handicraft of various masters, in
painting or sculpture, by minute signs and delicate inferential
processes. In such matters, I shall be well content to follow
the lead of the most authoritative experts. Nor am I an art-
critic — a student versed in the technique of the studios and the
dialect of the modelling-room. In such matters, again, I shall
attempt little more than to accept the general opinion of the


most discriminative judges. What I aim at rather is to expound
the history and meaning of each work — to put the intelligent
reader in such a position that he may judge for himself of the
aesthetic beauty and success of the object before him. To
recognise the fact that this is a Perseus and Andromeda, that
a St. Barbara enthroned, the other an obscure episode in the
legend of St. Philip, is not art-criticism, but it is often an almost
indispensable prelude to the formation of a right and sound
judgment. We must know what the artist was trying to repre-
sent before we can feel sure what measure of success he has
attained in his representation.

For the general study of Christian art, alike in architecture,
sculpture, and painting, no treatises are more useful for the
tourist to carry with him for constant reference than Mrs.
Jameson's Sacred and Legendary Art, and Legends of the
Madonna (London, Longmans). For works of Italian art, both
in Italy and elsewhere, Kugler's Italian Schools of Paintmg is
an invaluable vade-mecum. These books should be carried
about by everybody everywhere. Other works of special and
local importance will occasionally be noticed under each par-
ticular city, church, or museum.

I cannot venture to hope that handbooks containing such
a mass of facts as these will be wholly free from errors and
misstatements, above all in early editions. I can only beg
those who may detect any such to point them out, without
unnecessary harshness, to the author, care of the publisher,
and if possible to assign reasons for any dissentient opinion.



Introduction 5

How TO Use these Guide-Books 12

I Origins of Venice 13

II Byzantine Venice : St. Mark's . . . .23

III Gothic Venice : The Doge's Palace ... 85

IV Renaissance Venice 97

V The Four Great Plague-Churches . . .103

A. The Salute 104

B. San Rocco, and the Scuola di San Rocco . . 107

C. San Giobbe 112

D. San Sebastiano 116

VI The Academy 120

VII The Doge's Palace 176

VIII The Grand Canal 198

IX The Friars' Churches 215

A. SS. Giovanni e Paolo 216

B. The Frari 229

X Minor Sights 241

A. San Giorgio degli Schiavoni .... 242

B. San Zaccaria 247

C. The Palladian Churches 251

D. The Residuum 255

Appendix 262



rH E portions of this book intended to be read at
leisure at home, before proceedi?ig to explore each
toivn or monument, are enclosed in brackets \thus\
The portion relaiiftg to each principal object should
be quietly read and digested before a visit, and re-
ferred to again aftertvards. The portion to be read on
the spot is made as brief as possible, a?id is printed in
large legible type, so as to be easily read in the dim light of
churches, chapels, and galleries. 7%^ key = note words ar^
printed iti bold type, to catch the eye. Where objects are
numbered, the numbers used are always those of the latest
official catalogues.

Baedeker's Guides are so printed that each principal por-
tion can be detached entire from the volume. The traveller
who uses Baedeker is advised to carry in his pocket one
such portion, referring to the place he is then visiting, to-
gether with the plan of the town, while carrying this book
in his hafid. These Guides do not profess to supply prac-
tical information.

Individual works oj merit are distinguished by an aster-
isk (*)y those of very exceptional interest and merit have
two asterisks. Nothing is noticed in this book which does
fwi seem to the writer worthy of attention.

See little at a time, and see it thoroughly. Never attonpt
to '■'■do" any place or any monument. By following strictly
the order ifi which objects are noticed in this book, you ivill
gain a conception of the historical evolution of the tozvn
7vhich you cannot obtain if you go about looking at churches
and palaces hap-hazard. The order is arranged, fiot quite
chronologically, but on a definite plan, ivhich greaty facili-
tates comprehension of the subject.




THE very name of Venezia or Venice by which we
now know the city of the lagoons is in its origin
the name, not of a town, but of a country. Upon the
proper comprehension of this curious fact depends a proper
comprehension of much that is essential in the early history
of the city and of the Republic.

The rich and fertile valley of the Po had for its com-
mercial centre from a very remote period the town of
Mediolanum or Milan. But its port for the time being,
though often altered, lay always on the Adriatic. That sea
derives its name, indeed, from the town of Hatria, (later
corrupted into Adria,) which was the earliest centre of the
Po valley traffic. Hatria and its sister town of Spina, how-
ever, gave way in imperial Roman times to Padua, and
again in the days of the lower empire to Aquileia, near
Trieste, and to Altinum, on the mainland just opposite
Torcello. Padua in particular was a very prosperous and
populous town under the early emperors ; it gathered into
itself the surplus wealth of the whole Po valley.

The district between Verona and the sea, known to the
Romans as Venetia, seems in the most ancient times of
which we have any record to have been inhabited by an
Etruscan population. Later, however, it was occupied by the
Veneti, an Illyrian tribe, whose name still survives in that of
Venice and in the district known as II Veneto. But much
Etruscan blood must have remained in the land even after
their conquest : and it is doubtless to this persistent Etrus-
can element that the Venetians owe their marked artistic
faculty. The country of the Veneti was assimilated and


Romanised (by nominal alliance with Rome) in the third
century before Christ. Under the Romans, Venetia, and
its capital Padua, grew extremely wealthy, and the trade of
the Lombard plain (as we now call it), the ancient Gallia
Cisalpina, was concentrated on this district.

The Po and the other rivers of the sub-Alpine region bring
down to the Adriatic a mass of silt, which forms fan-like
deltas, and spreads on either side of the mouth in belts or
bars, (the Lido,) which enclose vast lagoons of shallow
water. These lagoons consist near the mainland of bask-
ing mudbanks, more or less reclaimed, and intersected by
natural or artificial canals ; further out towards the bars,
or Lidi, they deepen somewhat, but contain in places
numerous low islands. During the long troubles of the
barbaric irruptions, in the 4th, 5th, and subsequent cen-
turies, the ports of the lagoons, better protected both by
land and sea than those of the Po, began to rise into com-
parative importance ; on the south, Ravenna, on the north,
Altinum, acquired increased commercial value. The slow
silting up of the older harbours, as well as the dangers of
the poHtical situation, brought about in part this alteration
in mercantile conditions.

When Attila and his Huns invaded Italy in 453, they
destroyed Padua, and also Altinum ; and though we need
not suppose that those cities thereupon ceased entirely to
exist, yet it is at least certain that their commercial im-
portance was ruined for the time being. The people of
Altinum took refuge on one of the islands in the lagoon,
and built Torcello, which may thus be regarded in a certain
sense as the mother=clty of Venice. Subsequent waves
of conquest had like results. Later on, in 568, the Lom-
bards, a German tribe, invaded Italy, and completed the
ruin of Padua, Altinum, and Aquileia. The relics of the
Romanised and Christian Veneti then fled to the islands, to
which we may suppose a constant migration of fugitives had
been taking place for more than a century. The Paduans,
in particular, seem to have settled at Malamocco. The
subjugated mainland became known as Lombardy, from its


Germanic conquerors, and the free remnant of the Veneti,
still bearing their old name, built new homes in the flat
islets of Rivo Alto, Malamocco, and Torcello, which were
the most secure from attack in their shallow waters. This
last fringe of their territory they still knew as Venetia or
Venezia; the particular island, or group of islands, on
which modern Venice now stands, bore simply at that time
its original name of Rivo Alto or Rialto, that is to say, the
Deep Channel.

The Romanised semi-Etruscan Christian Republic of
Venezia seems from the very first to have been governed by
a Dux or Doge, (that is to say, Duke,) in nominal subjection
to the Eastern Emperor at Constantinople. The Goth and
the Lombard, the Frank and the Hun, never ruled this last
corner of the Roman world. The earliest of the Doges
whose name has come down to us was Paulucius Anafestus,
who is said to have died in 716, and whose seat of govern-
ment seems to have been at Torcello. Later, the Doge
of the Venetians apparently resided at Malamocco, a town
which no longer exists, having been destroyed by sub-
mergence, though part of the bank of the Lido opposite still
retains its name. Isolated in their island fastnesses, the
Venetians, as we may now begin to call them, grew rich and
powerful at a time when the rest of Western Europe was
sinking lower and lower in barbarism ; they kept up their
intercourse with the civilised Roman east in Constantinople,
and also with Alexandria, (the last then Mahommedanised,)
and they acted as intermediaries between the Lombard King-
dom and the still Christian Levant. When Charlemagne in
the 8th century conquered the Lombards and founded the re-
newed (Teutonic) Roman Empire of the West, the Venetians,
not yet established in modern Venice, fled from Malamocco
to Rivo Alto to escape his son. King Pepin, whom they
soon repelled from the lagoons. About the same time they
seem to have made themselves practically independent of
the eastern empire, without becoming a part of the western
and essentially German one of the Carlovingians. Not
long after, Malamocco was deserted, partly no doubt owing


to the destruction by Pepin, but partly also perhaps because
it began to be threatened with submergence : and the
Venetians then determined to fix their seat of government on
Rivo Alto, or Rialto, the existing Venice. For a long time,
the new town was still spoken of as Rialto, as indeed a
part of it is by its own inhabitants to the present day ; but
gradually the general name of Venezia, which belonged
properly to the entire Republic, grew to be confined in
usage to its capital, and most of us now know the city only
as Venice.

Pepin was driven off in 809. The Doge's palace was
transferred to Rialto, and raised on the site of the existing
building (according to tradition) in 819. Angelus Partici-
potius was the first Doge to occupy it. From that period
forward to the French Revolution, one palace after another
housed the Duke of the Venetians on the same site. This
was the real nucleus of the town of Venice, though the
oldest part lay near the Rialto bridge. Malamocco did not
entirely disappear, however, till 1 107. The silting up of the
harbour of Ravenna, the chief port of the Adriatic in late
Roman times, and long an outlier of the Byzantine empire,
contributed greatly, no doubt, to the rise of Venice : while
the adoption of Rivo Alto with its deep navigable channel
as the capital marks the gradual growth of an external

The Republic which thus sprang up among the islands of
the lagoons was at first confined to the little archipelago
itself, though it still looked upon Aquileia and Altinum as
its mother cities, and still acknowledged in ecclesiastical
matters the supremacy of the Patriarch of Grado. After
the repulse of King Pepin, however, the Republic began to
recognise its own strength and the importance of its position,
and embarked, slowly at first, on a career of commerce, and
then of conquest. Its earliest acquisitions of territory were
on the opposite Slavonic coast of Istria and Dalmatia ;
gradually its trade with the east led it, at the beginning of
the Crusades, to acquire territory in the Levant and the
Greek Archipelago. This eastern extension was mainly


due to the conquest of Constantinople by Doge Enrico
Dandolo during the fourth Crusade (1204), an epoch-making
event in the history of Venice which must constantly be
borne in mind in examining her art-treasures. The Httle
outlying western dependency had vanquished the capital of
the Christian Eastern Empire to which it once belonged.
The greatness of Venice dates from this period ; it became
the chief carrier between the east and the west ; its vessels
exported the surplus wealth of the Lombard plain, and
brought in return, not only the timber and stone of Istria
and Dalmatia, but the manufactured wares of Christian
Constantinople, the wines of the Greek isles, and the
oriental silks, carpets, and spices of Mahommedan Egypt,
Arabia, and Bagdad. The Crusades, which impoverished
the rest of Europe, doubly enriched Venice : she had the
carrying and transport traffic in her own hands ; and her
conquests gave her the spoil of many eastern cities.

It is important to bear in mind, also, that the Venetian
Republic (down to the French Revolution) was the one part
of western Europe which never at any time formed a
portion of any Teutonic empire, Gothic, Lombard,
Frank, or Saxon. Alone in the west, it carried on unbroken
the traditions of the Roman empire, and continued its
corporate life without Teutonic adulteration. Its peculiar
position as the gate between the east and west made a deep
impress upon its arts and its architecture. The city re-
mained long in friendly intercourse with the Byzantine
realm ; and an oriental tinge is thus to be found in all
its early buildings and mosaics. St. Mark's in particular
is based on St. Sophia at Constantinople ; the capitals of
the columns in both are strikingly similar ; even Arab in-
fluence and the example of Cairo (or rather of early
Alexandria) are visible in many parts of the building.
Another element which imparts oriental tone to Venice is
the number of imported works of art from Greek churches.
Some of these the Republic frankly stole ; others it carried
away in good faith during times of stress to prevent them
from falling into the hands of the Mahommedan con-
V.. V. B


querors. The older part of Venice is thus to some extent
a museum of applied antiquities; the bronze horses from
Constantinople over the portal of St. Mark's, the pillars
of St. John of Acre on the south fagade, the Greek lions
of the Arsenal, the four porphyry emperors near the Doge's
Palace, are cases in point ; and similar instances will meet
the visitor in the sequel everywhere. Many bodies of
Greek or eastern saints were also carried off from Syria or
Asia Minor to preserve them from desecration at the hands
of the infidel ; and with these saints came their legends,
unknown elsewhere in the west ; so that the mosaics and
sculptures based on them give a further note of orientalism
to much of Venice. It may also be noted that the intense
Venetian love of colour, and the eye for colour which
accompanies it, are rather eastern than western qualities.
This peculiarity of a pure colour-sense is extremely notice-
able both in Venetian architecture and Venetian paint-

The first Venice with which the traveller will have to
deal is thus essentially a Romanesque= Byzantine city.
It rose during the decay of the Roman empire, far from
barbaric influences. Its buildings are Byzantine in type ;
its mosaics are mostly the work of Greek or half-Greek
artists ; its Madonnas and saints are Greek in aspect ;
often even the very lettering of the inscriptions is in Greek
not in Latin. And though ecclesiastically Venice belonged
to the western or Roman church, the general assemblage
of her early saints (best seen in the Atrium and Baptistery
of St. Mark's) is thoroughly oriental. We must remember
that during all her first great period she was connected
by the sea with Constantinople and the east, but cut off
by the lagoons and the impenetrable marshes from all
intercourse with Teutonised Lombardy and the rest of

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Online LibraryGrant AllenVenice; Grant Allen's historical guide books to the principal cities of Europe treating concisely and thoroughly of the principal historic and artistic points of interest therein → online text (page 1 of 22)