Social Life in Renaissance Venice . HTAV Student Lecture 2008 Dr K. Peterson. Key knowledge Social structures of Venice during the Renaissance i.e. The three classes, the outsiders and the institutions that had a social function such as scuole, guilds, parishes, sestieri, ghetto, fondaco
HTAV Student Lecture 2008
Dr K. Peterson
In the C 16th
all patricians have to be inscribed in the ‘Golden Book’
Doge: Elected for life.
Cittadini; de intus et de extra (granted citizenship).
Reward + must have paid their taxes
originari: right by birth: C16th
Plebs (Roman term term)
Long/short/new families Rich/poor
Male /female: Young and old
Large families/small families.
Dennis Hay argues “nobility embraced such a wide spectrum of wealth, political prominence and family size that it could almost be described more as a microcosm of society as a whole than an elite.”
Cittadini about +5%
originari (hereditary and provided the bureaucracy, diplomatic posts & ‘to be nourished under the shadow of our signoria’ i.e. sinecures. Trade within Venice and the Empire.
De intus et de extra (Granted) –Could legally trade as Venetians in Venice and/or the Empire in their own right. Descendents could acquire hereditary status.
Popolani - Over 90% of Venetians.
Everyone not in the other Classes. Manual worker and servants
C 16th patricians Contarini and Sabellico believed that there were only two classes in Venice; the elite (privileged) and the rest
Contarini described Venice as ‘nobiles and plebs’ but he did acknowledged that were some offices and honours for some plebs.
Marin Sanudo in 1493 wrote that Venice counted three sorts of inhabitants:’ nobles, cittadini and lesser people [popolo menuto or artisans]
AND the Florentine Donato Giannotti described Venetian society as composed of cittadini, who exercised ‘more honoured trades …acquired some splendour’ and “gentlemen who ruled the state” and “popolari, the most miserable trades”
Luigida Porto, Vicenzian noble in a letter in 1509 described Venetian society:
“.. In Venice, as you know, there is no popolo as such [guild members with a traditional political role]; apart from a few with long established citizenship, who indeed hate the nobles, but dare very little. All the rest are such new people that there are very few of them whose fathers were born in Venice; and they are Slavs, Greeks, Albanians, come from other times to be sailors, or to earn money from the various trades pursued there.”
Some currently available and very useful sources that outline the careers of many individuals and provide useful statistics..;
Ersie Burke, “Two Venetian Merchants “ - HTAV Cats in Senior History
Ros Otzen, “ Noble and Cittadini Families in Renaissance Italy” –HTAV Readings, 1985
Chamberlain, The world of the Italian Renaissance (brief summary of Andrea B arbarigo’s life, if you cannot get Lane’s biography. .
Chambers, Imperial Venice.
G. Wills, Lion City. (note particularly Tomasso Rangone)
M Laven, Virgins of Venice: Enclosed lives and Broken Vows . Lond.2002
Martin, J & D. Romano eds: Venice Reconsidered, Johns Hopkins 2000
Some statistics and quotes relevant to marriage:: (Mainly from Martin and Romano, Venice Reconsidered)
Chojnacki – a sample of 890 patrician marriages in C 15& 1C6th shows only 9% married out of their class.and the incidence decreased over time
J. Grubb’s wider sample suggests 15% in the C 15th married outside their class
By mid C 16th about 50% of patrician women never marry
1506 instigation of Book of Gold – births had to be registered within 8 days .Reinforced existing legislation denying status to the illegitimate or those born to ‘low class’ women. Dennis Romano’s research suggests that by the C 16th social hierarchy was more rigid, as shown by the new emphasis on the status of the MOTHER, not just the rank of the father.
Benedetto Bordone, 1528, woodcut. Notice the exaggerated protective enclosure, the churches, the key commercial and trading centres.
ALDUA MANUTIUS: An example of networks based on trade, humanism, and the cramped geography of this ‘face to face society’
Born about 1450 near Rome. Humanist educated. Became a Roman citizen and was a umanista until he was about 40. A friend of Poliziano, Pico della Mirandola, Ficino and others. Learned Greek
He was fascinated by langauage, pronunciation and the way languages change.
Decided to become a printer in Venice, not Florence, because he could get investment capital.
His partners were Doge Barbarigo’s wealthy nephew and the popolani printer, Torresani, a self made man, well connected through the trade.
His house accommodated up to 30 people (family, servants, humanist visitors and his workers.) A mix of sweat shop, boarding house and research institute. It was opposite the Pisani family palace. Marin Sanudo lived nearby.
Sestieri : humanism, and the cramped geography of this ‘face to face society’ Is there an historical debate? Administrative importance
San Marco is the richest but they are heterogenous in social composition.
Est. C 12th to administer government loans
Represented in the Collegio
The Nightwatch [Signor di Notte] based on the sestieri
Scuole Grandi in each by the C 16th.
Parishes: Historians seem to agree with Brian Pullen that “the Parish was the basic social unit, apart from the family”. The priest was chosen by the householders and the area was governed on behalf of the Signoria by a patrician from a great family living in the parish. The patrician, called the Cape di Contrada, had to recruit men for the state galleys, make assessments for forced loans, and check the activities of taverns and foreigners.
For the popolo “the ties extend across many parishes
Where born Where worked Where married
Where his guild met Where his scuole met
Where received first communion Where the great preaching churches were Where he wanted to be buried
Lane humanism, and the cramped geography of this ‘face to face society’ : ‘The integration within these parishes was a foundation stone of Venice’s social stability.’ Venice: Maritime Republic p. 12
BUT Romano ‘ By the second quarter of the C 15th a new political and social order had begun to emerge in Venice. Gone were the days of loosely formed associations that cut across social strata, drawing Venetians together in a myriad of contrasting and complementary ways.. The old sense of community was replaced by a new and equally compelling sense of place’. Patricians and Popolani. P,158
Evidence: Decline in patrician support for local festivals, like the ‘the three Maries’.
Patrician bequests to the poor of the parish decline from early 1300s, probably 1 in 4 to the 1400s, 1 in 20.
Early 15th patrician youths encouraged to join stocking clubs rather than associated with local popolani youths
1416 Francesco Barbaro, in his treatise on women humanism, and the cramped geography of this ‘face to face society’
“what is the use of bringing home great wealth unless the wife will work at preserving, maintaining and utilizing it,’’ To do this she should ‘Imitate the leaders of bees, who supervise, receive and preserve whatever comes into their hives, to the end that, unless necessity dictates otherwise, they remain in their honeycombs, where they develop and mature beautifully.’
In order that a wife does her duty and brings peace and harmony to her household, she must agree to the first principle that she does not disagree with her husband on any point.
Moderata Fonte (Modesta da Pozzo), cittadini class, wrote The Worth of Women, 1592 [She died in childbirth the day she finished it]
… Look what a good deal marriage is for women! They lose their property, lose themselves and get nothing in return, except children to trouble them and the rule of a man, who orders them about at his will.
Ethnic map of Venice early C 16 humanism, and the cramped geography of this ‘face to face society’ th. (Note influence of arsenale, Molo, Rialto on ethnic concentrations. Remember the Grand Canal was a focus of wealth but not restricted to Patricians. .
Other institutions that reflect social relationships humanism, and the cramped geography of this ‘face to face society’
e.g. The Fondaco (merchant accommodation and warehouse)
Early C 14th first Fondaco dei Tedeschi - to ensure German merchants pay taxes
Late C 15th its doors and windows shut from outside at night because of smuggling’
BUT the German merchant, von Harff was most impressed with the convenience of the fondaco and the attitude of Venetians to foreigners.
1530s tighten the rules so wealthy merchants could not buy the right to live outside. This is a response to the Protestant ideas that were rife among the merchants. Yet, within the fondaco, Lutheran worship was permitted.
Venetian motivation can be linked to the political and economic bases of the the state: economic self interest while protecting the republic from moral pollution in a form that also gives some benefit to the other side.
The Rialto Brothel, 1460 [Chambers and Pullen] humanism, and the cramped geography of this ‘face to face society’
By command of the most illustrious Signoria the Lord Heads of the Sestierei have been entrusted with the task of finding a suitable and proper place where the whores must abide….
and have agreed that the best solution and the lest harmful to that island [Rialto] would be for these sinful women to abide in the houses of the noble Priamo Malipiero… Don Priamo has granted them to the Heads of the Sestieri on the same terms and conditions, and at the same rent, as when the first fortified brothel, which is now to be demolished, was built.
A 1512 sumptuary law in Venice:
Waiters and cooks who serve at any feast are compelled under fine... to come to the office of the three Sumptuary Officers of the Senate and declare the time and place of any banquet for which they have been engaged, in order that our office can find out if the law will be violated.