Archive for Venetian History
We left our story — “The Interminable Quest for the True Provenance of the Viale Garibaldi, as Recounted by People Living and Dead (I suppose that should be “living or dead”), with Illustrations and Funny Spelling” — at an uncomfortable point between things I knew and things I only thought I knew.
Several readers have since written me giving me more information and opinions than I’d expected (that’s not saying much, considering that I expected none). My ensuing labors to sift, evaluate, cross-check, confirm, and make at least one educated guess have led me to the last thing I’m going to say about viale Garibaldi. Not that there couldn’t be more, and there probably is more, but my interest is dimming and I’d bet yours is too.
The story so far:
Canaletto painted a picture showing a section of Castello as it no longer appears. I deduced from the painting that the vantage point from which he painted it was a canal which was later filled in to make the present gravel walkway lined by lime trees named the viale Garibaldi.
Please note that much confusion can be avoided by remembering that via Garibaldi and viale Garibaldi are not the same thing. “Viale” is a word which, among various translations, means “tree-lined avenue.”
A reader questioned my original assertion and its various geographical and geometrical elements, and proposed that the water seen in the painting was instead a glimpse of the Bacino of San Marco, where its rippling wavelets caressed the smooth stone surface of a working riva (fondamenta). He proposed it in less overwrought terms.
I found a map by Joan Blaue (date unknown by me, except that it was made in the 1600’s) which shows that there was indeed a riva in that place, leading down into the waters of the Bacino of San Marco, and not at all the canal I had imagined.
In brief, I was wrong and he was right.
Another reader then wrote with more information and opinions, and attached a detail from another map, which I am showing here. It was made by Ludovico Ughi in 1729 — slightly after Canaletto’s time, but probably not long enough to matter to our story.
As you see, Ughi identifies a clearly non-canal strip of territory as “Cale di S. Domenico di Castello.” If it was a calle (street) in 1729, I’m going to assume it was a calle in 16-whatever-it-was when Canaletto painted his picture.
Or maybe you can’t see it. It’s the broad line that begins in the “crook” of the waterfront and goes north till it hits the “rio di Castello,” the canal which became via Garibaldi.
Conclusion: Making assumptions can be dangerous, as my original post demonstrated, but I think the evidence is now reasonably clear that the present viale Garibaldi was not a canal in the 17th century.
That’s really all I’m interested in saying about this. Whatever it was, or wasn’t, or dreamed of being, but couldn’t, or might have been if Napoleon or Nikola Tesla or Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler hadn’t intervened, is a story I’m not going to be pursuing anymore.
I’m all for knowledge — the more, the better, even as it gets broken and reassembled in ever-tinier pieces and shapes. But unless somebody can convince me that Jimmy Hoffa is buried under the third bench on the right, I’m going to leave this subject and go on to something else. Perhaps something more interesting, maybe even more important. But at least it won’t be about the viale Garibaldi.
Walking home the other day, I cast my eye, as usual, on the building corner which Lino refers to as “The Wailing Wall.” Meaning no disrespect to the original place of that name, our little angle is the perfect spot to tape up death notices. I’ve mentioned on other occasions that the cost to publish such a notice in the Gazzettino is totally fantastical, so these rectangles of plastic are extremely useful in keeping people up to date on for whom the bell is tolling.
But I don’t usually expect to see names I recognize, mainly because the number of people I know who might be likely to demise is very limited. And although some surnames are a little unusual, there are very few which hurl one back 700 years into one of the most complicated and desperate conspiracies ever formed to attempt the overthrow of the Venetian Republic.
So I was unprepared to see a new notice stuck on the wall, complete with photo of the deceased, announcing the death of Baiamonte Tiepolo.
This name may not connote much to you, but anyone who has skimmed Venetian history knows it as the name of one of the most audacious revolutionaries who ever tried to scuttle somebody’s government.
It was like seeing a notice for some innocuous little person who just happened to be named Benedict Arnold, or Oliver Cromwell, or Ernesto Guevara, or Gregory Rasputin.
As for someone bearing the name of a renowned Venetian noble family, this isn’t quite so startling. I interviewed a descendant of doge Jacopo Tiepolo some years ago, and I know that there are Grimanis and Zorzis and Da Mosto’s still roaming the city. I have also met a young woman carrying forward the storied name of Bragadin.
But it’s one thing to bear the last name; if you were a Bragadin, I think it would be cruel to name your son Marcantonio. The name is certainly worthy of remembrance, but the boy’s life would be hell. There are only so many witty remarks you can make to someone whose forebear was flayed alive after an epic siege that lasted almost a year, and the lad would have to hear all of them.
On the same note, the Venice phone book lists two men named Marco Polo. They must have been doomed to a life of a steady drizzle of really funny remarks. “Hey, Marco — back so soon?” “Give my regards to the Khan, next time you see him.” “Did you really invent pasta?” And so on.
For the late Baiamonte, the drollery would have had to be more erudite, and I won’t risk any here because life is short, and by the time one (that is, me) has related as much as possible of his ancestor’s spectacular, if also scurrilous, story, the potential for humor would have dried up and blown away in the wind. But I feel safe in saying that, thanks to his namesake and his cohorts, the year 1310 stands out in Venetian history as much as 1492 or 1776 stands out in the American annals.
Here is the drastically condensed version of his story. The plot was foiled, he was exiled for four years, and his palace was torn down. He spent those years traveling, visiting Venice’s enemies (Padova, Treviso, Rovigo, and some very powerful families therein) doing everything conceivable to convince them to join him in another conspiracy. He just wouldn’t give up.
Not amused, Venice changed the sentence to perpetual exile. He wandered around Dalmatia seeking new collaborators. He was imprisoned. He escaped. The Venetian government forbade anybody to have anything to do with him. Finally, in 1329, the Council of Ten decreed that he had to be eliminated, by any means.
The details of Baiamonte’s death are uncertain, which is not surprising when a person has to be eliminated. (The “Caught a cold and stopped breathing” explanation has often been sufficient.) As for location, at least one historian states that he was in Croatia, staying with relatives, when his last day came and went.
For the Tiepolos of Lower Castello, maybe it was a point of pride to name their son Baiamonte. It couldn’t have been inadvertent. I can’t imagine somebody saying “Heavenly days, it never crossed my mind that somebody would think of the old subversive of blackened fame.”
I notice, though, that he named his son Andrea. Maybe he had had enough.
A sharp-eyed reader who read my recent post on Carlo de Ghega has written to the “Comments” page with the following salient observation:
Gioachin Erla? The marvelous iMaps+ doesn’t help, but the index to my typical Venice map lists a Gioacchino S Fm at E9, and there it is, at what iMaps calls Fondamenta San Giovacchino. No wonder he’s “famous”.
Checking up on street spelling might be as good an excuse as any to plan a stroll around Ghega’s native heath, but I will help those who are farther away by giving evidence here of the spelling on the nizioleto.
For anyone coming in late to this epic, which is beginning to resemble Ben-Hur mixed with Michael Strogoff and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, here is the link to the Preface, Backstory, Prequel, Dramatis Personae, Nihil Obstat, or whatever one wants to call it.
Which brings me to a dead end in the cartographic road, so to speak. Simply put, I cannot understand — and I’ve tried — why makers of Venice maps don’t write the street names to match what’s on the walls. It’s so sublimely idiotic that even my brain, which idiocytropic, refuses to deal with it. Where the matter of street-names-on-maps-differing-from-street-names-on-streets is concerned, my brain is like a cat examining a new product in its food dish, a product which even after a few minutes hasn’t yet inspired any urge to proceed. Sniffing, looking, and even licking haven’t produced any reaction at all. Perhaps I have overdone this metaphor. I haven’t really licked anything involving maps.
If anyone knows, or even imagines that he/she knows, or even has just a wild theory, as to why mapmakers publish street names which are not the same as the street signs in this extremely foreign country otherwise known as the most beautiful city in the world, I would be grateful to be told.
Then I could go back to looking and sniffing at other things.
As all the world knows, Venice used to be one of the most important cities in Europe for printing — books, music, heretical works banned by the Catholic church. Even in the last century there were still 20 printing presses in Venice.
If one were to want to know more, it’s pretty much enough just to read the story of Aldus Manutius (Aldo Manuzio, in Italian), who singlehandedly midwifed the Renaissance by printing (and translating) many of the Greek classics which survived antiquity, few as they are. Do I exaggerate? It’s thanks to him we non-Greek-speaking people can read Aristotle, Thucydides, Sophocles, Herodotus, Xenophon, Euripides, Demosthenes….
He also invented the pocket-sized book, and italic letters. You see how many things we take for granted?
But this is not a post about Aldus. It’s about Antonio Gardano and Johannes Buglhat and their big battle of the woodcuts.
They were part of the brigades of other excellent printers hard at work in the 15th and 16th centuries, and these printers were not all drinking buddies. Being merchants, they had to keep a sharp eye on their competitors. Sometimes very sharp eyes.
A friend has sent me an article by David Plylar, from the Library of Congress blog, which deals with the woodcut slanging between the aforementioned publishers.
Rather than reprint it here, the author has suggested that I only give the link. I myself think it’s pretty funny. But you decide.