Presenting, explaining Venice, Voltaire’s “delicious absurdity,” is a feat that makes the veins and wrists tremble.
Is it possible to explain the absurd? Also, which Venice?
There is the solar and fruitful Venice of couples on their wedding trip, there is the multicolored Venice of tourists who are photographed in front of St. Mark in the eyes of doves, there is the Venice of the future that will fight between high water and low incomes, and that of the past, the port of melancholy for the decadent, who seek in his stones consecrated by saltiness, in his sumptuous facelessness, a impossible peace for their exquisite evils.
At the Hotel Danieli, some curious is indicated by the porter the rooms n. 9 and n. 10 must the French poet and writer Alfred de Musset and George Sand consume. No love and fights, and to cut off their Passion found no better than to say goodbye under the cypress trees of a cemetery, at the Lido.
Obliar romanticism. Things that sent in beast Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.
A seventy years ago, in July 1908, the Apostle of Futurism launched thousands of posters on the city inciting Venetians to “burn gondolas, rocking armchairs for jerks”, to liberate Venice from “its venal furnished chamber moonlight”.
And who would work the miracle?
The divine electric light, ensured the futurists. The electric light came, came even the translagoon road bridge, and with it the industries, but the problems, far from solving themselves, have worsened, for this is the most complex and elusive city of the world, its amphibious nature affects every manifestation of its life, sica and spiritual, of the individual and of the community.
Here everything is two-faced and contains in itself its opposite, as in the flow of the tide is already implied the ebb, and every attempt to interpret it ventures into a maze of seductive ambivalences and contrasts: nature and man, past and present, Adriatic and mainland, East and West, shadow and light, Gothic and Baroque, gondolas and speedboats, mosaics and oil tankers, the light blue skies of Titian and the dark ones of Marghera.
The game of antinomies could continue to the end, because Venice itself is a supreme antinomy, a seda to nature, an exception of history. Look at the Doge’s Palace: it’s a challenge to the laws of static, with the fretwork planes at the bottom supporting a massive stone cube.
Venice was born as a challenge to the sea, where no sensible person would dream of building a city: on the mud of a lagoon. In order to escape the invading Huns, the inhabitants of the coast took refuge in the islands of the estuary, organizing themselves into a community that managed to tender, in the west, to the pressure of the Franks, and recognized in the east the authority of Byzantium only because the emperor was too far away to exercise it.
Sailormen, fishermen, pilgrim ferryers travelling on the Romea road, then sailors and soldiers to the conquest of Dalmatia, the dawn of the second millennium, when on the rest of Italy weighed the blanket of the bi centuries.
The first doge, Paoluccio Anafesto, is from the 8th century, the last, Lodovico Manin, will be overthrown by Napoleon: a thousand years of unity and national independence, only the Roman Empire boasts equal longevity, and the Venetians can be considered, by solid constitution, by spirit of undertaking, by military courage, the Romans of the Middle Ages.
But, unlike Rome, trampled by the Gauls, Venice was never invaded by foreign army. He knew neither feudalism nor guerrillas factions. His form of government (another challenge!) was the more advance for those times, a mixture of monarchy, the doge, and aristocracy, the Major Council, in a word, an enlightened oligarchy.
If it was not a government of the people, it was surely a government for the people, as evidenced by the fact that the rare attempts at revolt started from the noble class, out of family jealousy, for ambition of power.
The Venetians knew that they lived in the greatest and prosperous Republic of the western world: in the lands of S. Marco took refuge, as in the nineteenth century Foscolo and Mazzini in England, the exiles outlawed by the rissous Italian communes.
It was a Republic founded on suspicion, but also on efficiency.
Many spoken words in the “calle” and in the small fields, few spoken words when the major themes of public life were to be addressed, and to make the supreme decisions.
Here the word was at technocrats, then called “you know”, that is, experts of clear fame. When it came to divert the rivers that switched the lagoon, severe punishments were threatened at amateurs, to the “non-employees” at works that purported to interfere in the decisions of technicals.
The work of the artisans, the anonymous but indispensable workers of iron, wood, glass, was held in so much regard that who helped a craftsman out of the territories of the Serenissima, or kidnapped him, was harshly punished, and sometimes the hit man sent to Florence or Paris to kill the artisan who had exported the secrets of art.
Before national interests, Venetian Real politik looked no one in the face. In 1204, the Republic agreed to bring to the Holy Land the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade, freight service on behalf of him, and they set off under the leadership of the eighty-year-old doge Enrico Dandolo, singing the “Veni Creatore Spiritus”. But it was not yet finished the echo of the sacred hymn, that the transporters realized that the Frankish armies did not have the 85,000 marks agreed for the journey, and then they made a payment, say, in nature, by making aid in the assault on Zadar and Constantinople.
Departing to destroy the infidel, the Venetians founded an empire, the Latin Empire of the East, the doge became “lord of a quarter and a half of the Roman Empire.” Innocent III fulminated the excommunication, but Venice did not trembled.
1508, Cambrai league: another challenge.
Venice found itself alone, against all the West, Pope Julius II in the lead. But not collapse.
In 1606, a few decades after collaborating in Lepanto in the Christian victory over the Turks, the Republic rejected the papal claim to take from its courts two priests guilty of common crimes.
Another excommunication, but the local clergy sided with the doge. Always in the name of St. Mark.
This was the palladium of the city, the national religious symbol that cemented in peace and war, from the first centuries of lean life on the inhospitable lagoons, up to the hassles of primap Mediterranean, the union of the people.
Those who enter the Basilica of St. Mark can see, on the right of the altar, a mosaic that tells, with the technique of the comic book, how the body of the saint was kidnapped, in the port of Alexandria of the 9th century Egypt). Spottering witha departing boat, a customs officer portrays himself horrified.
Suttering the kanzir word, “pig”. The shrewd robbers, Buono da Malamocco and Rustico da Torcell0 had hidden the remains of the saint under the quarters of a pig, meat forbidden by the Muslim religion.
Thanks to the theological rebreeze aroused in the guard, the two Venetians tore the precious body from Egypt and brought it to Venice, must the saint finally found peace announced to him by the angel: “Pax tibi Marce evangelist meus”, inside a splendid church, built on purpose by the doge.
The basilica of St. Mark became the palatine chapel of the doge, the cathedral remained relegated as for centuries in st. Pietro di Castello, to emphasize the separation of spiritual power from the temporal.
Sometimes, that was what used for his ends. In St. Mark the generals laid the victorious sword.
In S. Mark the newly elected doge was presented to the people with the hormula: “Questo xe missier lo dose, se ve Piase”, and after dead he was carried by the “arsenalotti” before the major altar and raised nine times, for everyone to see it. “The dead man’s jump,” people used to say, affectionate irreverence.
This picture says many things about the lepid character of the Venetians. “They sing on the squares, in the streets and in the canals” writes Carlo Goldoni, “the vendors sing by exiting their merchandise; they sing the workers leaving their work, the gondoliers waiting for the masters.
The fundamental character of this nation is cheerfulness, that of the Venetian language is jokiness.”
On Venice, and we can add all over the Veneto, blows a constant breezy of irony, winking reductive. The names tend to the diminutive, the novella bride is always a displace, there are no poor, at the most Poor people. It does more tenderness.
In a Paduan document of 1306 the titanic Dante shrinks in a “Dantino quondam Alligerij de Florentia”. The Veneto dialect prefers to the subsistious remote past (I said, I did) the confidential next past (I’ve done) that, bringing the action closer to the present, seems to eliminate the depth of the time, as Byzantine mosaics eliminate that of space.
Venice is theatrical and social city like few others, with poor Privacy, everything happens in public, in the calluses the voices of the barber, the milkman, the greengrocer rumble like from the bottom of a well.
And a humanity of pedestrians does not know from the car, perverse instrument of anthropophobia, who cross, in slight contact of elbows, far less alienating than the contact of bumpers, every day the same bridges, the same fielders, the professional next to the worker, the countess next to the “comare”, as the patrician palaces on the Grand Canal are attached, on the back, to the modest proletarian houses.
A theatrical but not melodramatic city, where the sweet dialect, cradling in a song of vowels, it sdramatizes feelings, and the husband of a woman too young prays with a mild smile: “Signor, fè che no sia beco; se lo son, fe che no lo sapia; se lo so, f che no me rabia” (Oh Lord, please lenon betray me, and if he cheats on me, he does not know, and if I know, he does not get angry).
The Venetians spoke in dialect with the Lord and Turkish. They were the first to abolish Latin from official acts, the doge’s decrees were script in dialect, all used, humble and powerful, the same language, which strengthened the communion of thoughts and words.
From the Greek East imported words still in use, Piròn (fork), Anguria (watermelon). There was a moment when the eastern soul of Venice, the first truly cosmopolitan Italian city, was about to prevail over the western one, and it was when, in the 13th century, the transfer en masse to Constantinople.
For a single vote, then called “the Providence vote”, the proposal fell through. On the banks of the Bosphorus the Venetians felt at home as on those of Brenta and Piave. The doge Domenico Selvo married a Byzantine princess.
From the racecourse of Constantinople they excised the bronze quadriga, a beautiful knickknack for St. Mark, today affected by smog and reduced to three horses, since one was locked in an air “stable” conditional, for the case findings.
From the East they also imported the Greek ideal of kaloskagathzôs, namely the coincidence of beauty and goodness. El xe a bogasso, they say in Venice, “is a good guy” (ethical concept). “With this dress you look elegant” (aesthetic concept).
Do we want to force speech and deduce from this ambivalence of the adjective good kinship between moral force and love of beauty? It is perhaps exceptional to suppose, in the mind of those who wanted these magnificent palaces, these gilded churches, this unparalleled splendour of art, a stubborn civil passion, a vehement pride of action, almost one challenge to future centuries?
Then the misfortunes began.
Three are the fatal dates in the city’s history: November 22, 1497, October 17, 1797, November 4, 1966. Always in autumn.
The suspicious Serenissima watched over everything; Woe to those in the woods of Cadore cut down the fir trees destined for his ships.
Forbidden since 300 to work in cities subjects, such as pitch, which made an unhealthy smoke: they are almost a feeling of Marghera.
Forbidden to plant stakes in the lagoon, because Palo makes swamp. But it could not prevent geographical exploration. On 22 November 1497, when the Portuguese Vasco de Gama dubbed the chief of good hope showing that Africa was circumnavigable, the decadence of Venice began.
From the sea came salvation and wealth, from the sea now came the sentence of death.
The Mediterranean was no longer indispensable to traffic with the Indies. Vasco da Gama gave a decisive blow to his trades, Napoleon to his freedom. On 17 October 1797 it passed to Austria, by virtue of the Treaty of Campoformio, consenting the Senate, which five months earlier, with Napoleon at the gates, he had voted, with 512 votes for and 20 against, the end of the Republic.
Then the senators and doge Lodovico Manin, tossed suits and insignia, had scattered around the city.
It was the same Senate that eight years earlier, at the death of doge Paolo Renier, had kept the news hidden for a few days, so as not to upset the carnival parties.
When a people come to these lies with themselves, it means that they have lived, and celebrated, too much.
More inauspicious than all the date of November 4, 1966, because it put in play not the trades or the freedom of Venice, but its very physical existence.
On that day the joint action of the tide and the “scirocco” raised the lagoon to a fearful height of 1.94 m above the middle level, the whole city was flooded, the inhabitants took refuge on the upper floors, on the roofs; It seemed that the sea swamped it forever, as it had done over the centuries with other islands of the lagoon.
He seemed to be about to realize Byron’s desperate prophecy: “oh Venice, Venice. When the murmuous walls are invaded by the waters, a mourning of the nations will rise upon your submerged mansions, a high lament along the sea that all covers. Are you me, a wandering Nordic, crying for you what should your children do?”
The children were not entirely innocent of that cataclysm, certainly attributable also to physical reasons, to the exceptional violence of the sea, to the rise of its level produced by the thaw of the polar ice cap. But it had been the sons who caused the soil to be lowered, dissentnately pumping water into the mainland for Marghera’s axed industries.
It was the sons who used the barene as a bargain in a colossal speculation about water fabricable, and every new plant that advanced in the lagoon diminished its basin, stealing space for free tidal expansion, so that this does not go in width, fatally goes in height.
They had been the ones who neglected the maintenance of the Murazzi, a giant wall built in 700 in front of Pellestrina.
The news that the world’s most fragile and precious city had gone underwater stirs a very strong emotion everywhere.
Dozens of countries mobilized to save her. Unesco intervened, each nation adopted a church, a palace to be restored at its own expense. An international loan of $500 million was granted, which the Italian government, with skillful sleight of hand, hijacked other. so that those money, allocated to save the city, have not yet reached destination.
The fact is that when you say Venice, the world means one thing, while others, more attentive to political currents than those of the Adriatic, mean another: Mestre. years ago, someone cynically asserted that was not the case of making as much noise for Venice setting. And the wheel of history, which dictates the fate already touched in Torcello, Malamocco. Venice love?
Let’s not worry, his place will be taken by Mestre, the emerging city that has as many chimneys as Venice has stilts, and Marinetti would love a lot.
The figures give Mestre right. Venice, that in the past centuries was the second city by population, after Naples, in 1950 it had 184,447 inhabitants, fell in 1976 102,000. In 1976 805 births were registered in Venice, compared to 1802 deaths. The population ages. Poor equipment and sports activities. The football team languished in Serie B.
The seafaring pride of Venetianity revives, with a fleeting guizzo, in the annual long vogue, which sees thousands of boats engaged around the lagoon, at the rediscovery of ancient natal waters, almost a return to the maternal uterus.
In Venice, contrary to what is believed, there is no shortage of jobs as 17,000 commuters travel to the historic centre every morning.
Missing healthy and decent houses, 1500 homes are without toilets, the 4600 apartments on the ground floor are perpetually treacherous by moisture and threatened by the tide. Queen of the seas to the water in the bedroom.
The special law launched after the disaster of 4 November 1966 blocked some essential initiatives for the city: the construction of the third industrial zone, the further development of the chemical industry and Petrochemical, co-responsible smog pollutes the air is crumbling stones. It no longer boast of futuristic trans lagoon highways and lagoon Sab.
But the law, or those who do it, had not succeeded in the most urgent thing, building restoration.
And people run away to Mestre, looking for a habitable home. Between Venice and Mestre, between mother and daughter, no good blood runs.
Despite the demographic osmosis, the psychological distance and the divergence of interests are much greater than the eight kilometres of bridge, which Count Vittorio Cini, his proponent in the 30’s, just before he died said, repentant, that he would be glad to be able to break with his own hands.
Venice has always considered “Foresti” the people from Mestre, aggregated until a few decades ago to the diocese of Treviso.
The dialect also has different inflections: “He is from Mestre” says with customs superiority the nostalgic of lost insular splendor, irritated by the fact that Mestre absorbs 80% of the municipal budget. Better to create two municipalities, they raise the separations seen, are two different cities, two cultures that have nothing in common.
What’s worse, they ignore themselves.
And one persists in the misconception of asking, in the name of Venice, how the excavation of the petroli canal, useful for bringing ships to Marghera, but disastrous for the precarious hydraulic balance of the lagoon. Those opposed to administrative divorce fear that this will still devitalize the old town, slowly turning it into a museum, a lagoon mummy for billionaires in the hunt for emotions.
The controversy is open and will last who knows how much.
Because another scourge brought down on the city after November 4 is the flood of ink, the hurricane of beats, round tables, committees and subcommittees, committees and subcommittees, committees and subcommittees, conventions of plumbers, geologists, urban planners, regulatory plans, plan plans and detailed plans, zone A of absolute respect, zone B for new buildings, assemblies, agendas, interviews: in short , an extraordinary production of ciàcole in a city that urgently asked for facts.
The battle for Venice has two enemies, nature and man.
The least concern is nature. He will be a cruel enemy, but not coffin, he doesn’t tell lies. He destroys with loyalty. It doesn’t do like men, who destroy by anointing or deluding themselves to save.
A few years ago Diego Valeri, the poet of Venice, speaking in the Palazzo Ducale to some international experts, said in French, about the falsanga of a famous ballad: “Princes, sauveg Venose, corn Prenez Garda, ne la la sauvez Pas top” (“Princes, save thee Venice, but beware, do not save her too much.”).
The old and almost blind poet, in his house in the foundations of the Cereri, Dorsoduro, shortly before he died. had to say, conversing with some friends: “Venice is a human atmosphere, the real home of man. Many, starting with Thomas Mann, wanted to feel only its spokened beauty, feverish fatigue.
For the decadent Venice is a great grave suspended over the waters. Mistake. Venice is a city that wakes up the senses of life and invites joy. Beauty is strength, it is a communication of strength.” As the poet spoke, the scream of a boatman went up from below the river, who brought vegetables to Rialto. The poet comments: “It always passes by this hour, and the beauty of Venice is tit above all of these small everyday things, pious that of the golden monuments and palaces in trine. Listening to the cry of the gondoliers in vault de canal, Wagner had the inspiration for the lament of the oboe, in the third act of the Tristan”.
Venice, the inimitable city created by mud, a great miracle, almost like that of Domineddio who created man with tango, is a vital city because it is made of color and light, and light is life.
It seems absurd, incredible, only to those who have so failed artificial life, and dizzyingly far from nature, as to judge absurd, illogical those who have remained faithful to nature, and Venice is customary of the two natural pious things that exist, water and light. The great Swiss architect Le Corbusier defamed her “a gift from God that should not be touched.”
American poet Ezra Pound and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky wanted to be buried in Venice. Artists and men of culture, of all origins and trends, have chosen it as a residence or meeting place, for its spiritual extraterritoriality.
Peggy Guggenheim has donated a museum to her, Ambassador Ashley Clarke enthusiastically leads Venice in Peril one of the many international committees for architectural emergency rooms. At Florian and Quadri play small orchestras, while Venice slowly sinks. The Titanic comes to mind. Compared to the early years of the century, the sinking speed has doubled, we have reached the scary average of 2.80 millimeters per year.
St. Mark “gives in” on the side of the “mercerie”, like a ship that lies on a shoal, tries to strengthen the columns with intravenous concrete.
The Friuli earthquake aged the city by three hundred years. In an exhibition of drawings, made by schoolchildren all over the world, the children enjoyed, with the cruelty of innocence, to raffi gurate a submerged Venice, visited by groups of divers tourists, others have populated St. Mark’s square of crows instead of pigeons, the most optimistic decided to save it by hanging it at balloons.
A legend says that every time you touch the horses of the basilica something big happens on the scene of the world.
We look at the dates. 1204: the Latin Empire of the East is born and the horses migrate to Venice. l707: Venice passes to Austria and the horses leave to Paris. They return in 1815, after Waterloo.
22 May l8l5: the order arrives to evacuate them, two days later Italy declares war on Austria. l8l7, Caporetto’s route: the tireless gallopers pass, via Po, to Cremona. The Habsburg Empire has the months numbered. December l842: transfer to the Euganean Hills, the Empire of Victor Emmanuel III enters agony.
Now all the 4 horses are in St. Marks.