First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

the country changed its name, and was no longer called Venetia. It then became a part of Lombary, Tervisermarck (March of Treviso) Floriaul, and of Histria (Istria); but the islands retained the name of the country. This city was built in A.D. 461, in which year Attila[Attila in 434 CE, with his brother Belda, attained to the sovereignty of all the northern tribes between the frontier of Gaul and the frontier of China. He gradually concentrated upon himself the awe and fear of the entire ancient world, which ultimately expressed itself by affixing to his name the well-known epithet of "the Scourge of God." His career divides itself into two parts. The first (445-450 CE) consists of the ravage of the Eastern empire between the Euxine and the Adriatic, and the negotiations with Theodosius II which followed upon it. They were ended by treaty ceding to Attila a large territory south of the Danube and an annual tribute. The second part of his career was the invasion of the Western empire (450-452). He crossed the Rhine at Strasbourg, but was defeated at Chalons in 451. He then crossed the Alps, took Aquileia, but did not attack Rome. He recrossed the Alps, but died in 453.] destroyed the city of Aquileia; but since then the city was built up again; and with larger and more costly buildings and houses of worship. Item: In the year A.D. 827 the body of St. Mark was brought to Venice from Asia, and in the following year the church of St. Mark was built in the most aristocratic part of the city; and there costly and irreplaceable valuables are kept. For the Venetian power and riches increased daily and miraculously.[St. Mark’s was originally the private chapel of the doge, an elective chief magistrate, holding princely rank in the Venetian republic. The Venetian dogate dated from 697 to 1797 when it was abolished. The Church of St. Mark’s was adorned with the spoils of other buildings, both in the East and on the Italian mainland. A law of the republic required every merchant trading in the East to bring back some material for the adornment of the church. In fact, the building is a museum of sculpture of the most varied kind, nearly every century from the 4th down to the latest Renaissance is represented. The present church is the third one on this site. Soon after the concentration at Rialto, a small wooden church was erected about the year 828 for the reception of the relics of St. Mark, brought from Alexandria. The chronicler speaks of Asia in this connection because Egypt was at that time considered a part of that continent. From that moment St. Mark became the patron saint of Venice, supplanting St. Theodore. The church was destroyed with the ducal palace in the insurrection against Doge Candiano IV. But it was later rebuilt on a larger scale and Byzantine architects had a large share in the work; but Lombards were also employed, giving birth to a new style, peculiar to the district. In plan St. Mark’s is a Greek cross of equal arms, covered by a dome in the center, 42 feet in diameter, and by a dome over each of the arms. The addition of a narthex before the main front and a vestibule on the northern side brings the whole western arm of the cross to a square. The exterior façade is enriched with marble columns from Alexandria and other eastern cities. The top of the narthex forms a wide gallery, in the center of which stand the famous four bronze horses.] As we reach the year 1204 the Venetians joined the French in a war, and in that war obtained control over Constantinople. And thereafter they built the Rialto.[The Rialto was the ancient city of Venice, and derived its name from Rivo-alto (‘deep stream’). The Ponte di Rialto is the famous bridge over the Grand Canal, built in 1591, connecting the old Rialto with the island of San Marco.] But in this city, and of its location, there is more to be wondered at than spoken of or written about. It is surrounded by the sea, so that all manner of merchandise and necessaries of life are not only brought to it by the sea, but also by other waters which flow there from the surrounding country. So it seems a contradiction to say that in this city in which nothing grows, everything is to be found necessary to sustain life, and even a surplus of it. I will be silent about the wide houses, the high towers, the adornment of houses of worship, the buildings erected in the midst of the waters, a thing which may seem incredible to those who have not seen it. And what is to be said of the large and numerous ships and their equipment, and of the great number of councilors, the order, the commendable customs, existent for over a thousand years; its kindness and open hospitality to all who choose to come there!

Venetia was a district in northern Italy originally included under the general name of Gallia Cisalpina. It was bounded on the west by the river Athesis (Adige), which separated it from Gallia Cisalpina; on the north by the Carnic Alps; on the east by the river Timavus, which separated it from Istria, and on the south by the Adriatic. Its inhabitants, the Veneti, called Heneti by the Greeks, were said to be descendants of the Paphalgonian Heneti, whom Antenor led into the country after the Trojan War, as it is said. There are many speculations as to who these people were, and from where they came, but all writers are agreed that they did not belong to the original population of Italy. To protect themselves against neighboring Celtic tribes, they formed an alliance with Rome; and the Romans defended them. They are almost the only people in Italy who became Roman subjects without offering resistance. They continued to enjoy great prosperity down to the time of the Marcomannic wars, in the reign of Aurelius. But from this time their country was frequently devastated by the barbarians who invaded Italy. In the fifth century many of its inhabitants, to escape the ravages of Attila, took refuge in the islands off their coast, on which now stands the city of Venice. In fact, the origin of Venice is attributed to these invasions, for it was founded by the refugees from the mainland cities who sought escape from the Huns in the impregnable shallows and mud banks of the lagoons. Venice, like Rome and other famous cities, was an asylum. But it is nearly certain that long before the Huns swept down on the Venetian plain in the middle of the fifth century, the little islands of the lagoon already had a population of poor fisherfolk, living in quasi-independence, thanks to their poverty and inaccessible site. This population was augmented from time to time by refugees from the mainland cities, such as Aquileia, Altinum and Patavium. With each movement of people, some of the refugees, no doubt, remained in the islands, and gradually built and peopled the 12 lagoon townships, which formed the germ of the State of Venice, and were subsequently concentrated at Rialto, or in the city we now know as Venice. These twelve townships were Grado, Bibione, Caorle, Jesolo, Heraclea, Torcello, Murano, Rialto, Malamocco, Poveglia, Chioggia, and Sottomarina.

In 466, 14 years after the fall of Aquileia, the population of the 12 lagoon township met at Grado to elect one tribune from each island for the better government of the separate communities, and to put an end to rivalries which had begun to play a disintegrating part. But with the influx of additional people, the jealousies increased and the individual tribunes were unable to control the situation. In this crisis the people suppressed their 12 tribunes and chose a single head of the State, and in 697 Venice elected her first doge.

The whole site of Venice is dominated by the Grand Canal that winds through the city and was at one time probably the bed of a river flowing into the lagoons near the Mestre. The smaller canals all serve as arteries to the Grand Canal. The alleys (calli) number 3227, with a total length of over 89 miles. The canals number 177 and measure 28 miles.

The soil of Venice is oozy mud, which can only be made capable of carrying buildings by the use of piles. There is no land fit for agriculture or the raising of cattle; the sole food supply is fish from the lagoon, and there is no drinking water save such as could be stored from rainfall.

The characteristic conveyances were the gondolas, flat-bottomed boats some 30 feet long by 4 to 5 feet wide, curving out of the water at the ends, with ornamental bow and stern pieces, and an iron beak resembling a halberd, which is the highest part of the boat. Gondolas are mentioned as far back as 1094, and prior to a sumptuary edict passed by the great council in 1562 making black their compulsory color, they were very different in appearance from now. The old boats had awnings of rich materials, supported on an arched frame open at both ends.

Fine examples of Venetian Byzantine palaces – at least of the facades – are still to be seen on the Grand Canal and on some of the smaller canals; but the interiors have been modified past recognition. The palaces seem to have had twin angle-towers, and the facades presented continuous colonnades on each floor with semi-circular high stilted arches, leaving a very small amount of wall space. The buildings are usually battlemented in fantastic form.