Venice and its Lagoon (1987)
Italy

Back to index

Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world's greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.

Venice (Italian Venezia) is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy, in Veneto Region, capital of Venice Province. Venice is situated on 120 islands formed by 177 canals in the lagoon between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers, at the northern extremity of the Adriatic Sea. Because of its historic role as a naval power and commercial center, the city is known as the “Queen of the Adriatic.” A railroad and highway causeway connect Venice with the mainland. Long sand bars, or barrier beaches, on the outer side of the lagoon serve as protection against the sea. 

San Marino 1971. Venice. Canale Grance between Palazzo Balbi and Rialto Bridge. San Marino 1971. Venice. View of the San Marco Basin on the Molo. San Marino 1971. Venice. View of the Harbour of Venice and the Customs Office.

The islands on which the city is built are connected by about 400 bridges. The Grand Canal, about 3 km (about 2 mi) long, winds through Venice from northwest to southeast, dividing the city into two nearly equal portions. The Giudecca Canal, about 400 m (about 1310 ft) wide, separates Giudecca Island, on the extreme south, from Venice proper. No motor vehicles are permitted on the narrow, winding lanes and streets that penetrate the old city, and the bridges are for pedestrians only. For centuries the most common method of transportation was by gondola, a flat-bottomed boat propelled by a single oar. Today, the gondolas are used mainly by tourists; motor launches carry almost all the freight and passenger traffic in Venice. 

Guyana 1993. Venice. Rialto Bridge. Guinea Bissau 2003. Venice. Sheetlet of various views of Venice.

The area around Venice was inhabited in ancient times by the Veneti. According to tradition, the city was founded in ad 452, when the inhabitants of Aquileia, Padua (Padova), and other northern Italian cities took refuge on the islands of the lagoon from the Teutonic tribes that invaded Italy during the 5th century. They established their own government, which was headed by tribunes for each of the 12 principal islands. 

Italy 1973. Venice. The Tetrarchs. Italy 1973. Venice. "Triumph of Venice". Italy 1973. Venice. Bronze Horses of St. Marc Basilica.

Italy 1973. Venice. Schiavoni Shore.

Italy 1973. Venice. St. Marc Square.

Although nominally part of the Eastern Roman Empire, Venice was virtually autonomous. In 697 the Venetians organized Venice as a republic under an elected doge. Internal dissension disturbed the course of government during the following century, but the threat of foreign invasion united the Venetians. Attacks by Saracens in 836 and by the Hungarians in 900 were repulsed. In 991 Venice signed a commercial treaty with the Saracens, initiating the Venetian policy of trading with the Muslims rather than fighting them. The Crusades and the resulting development of trade with Asia led to the establishment of Venice as the greatest commercial center for trade with the East. 

Monaco 1972. Venice. St. Marc Square. Monaco 1972. Venice. San Pietro di Castello. Monaco 1972. Venice. St. Giovanni and St. Paolo.

The republic greatly profited from the partition of the Byzantine Empire in 1204 and became politically the strongest European power in the Mediterranean region. The growth of a wealthy aristocracy gave rise to an attempt by the nobles to acquire political dominance, and, although nominally a republic, Venice became a rigid oligarchy by the end of the 13th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries Venice was involved in a series of wars with Genoa, its chief commercial rival. In the war of 1378-1381, Genoa was compelled to acknowledge Venetian supremacy. Wars of conquest enabled Venice to acquire neighboring territories, and by the late 15th century, the city-state was the leading maritime power in the Christian world.

Romania 1972. Venice. "The Marina". Romania 1972. Venice. "View from Venice". Romania 1972. "Venice". Stamp #1. Romania 1972. "Venice". Stamp #2.

The beginning of Turkish invasions in the middle of the 15th century marked the end of Venetian greatness. Thereafter, faced with attacks by foreign invaders and other Italian states, its power faded, and the discovery of a sea route to the Indies around the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama in 1497-1498 accelerated the decline. In 1508 the Holy Roman Empire, the pope, France, and Spain combined against Venice in the League of Cambrai and divided the Venetian possessions among themselves, and although Venice reacquired its Italian dominions through astute diplomacy in 1516, it never regained its political power.

Italy and San Marino 1994. Joint Issue. Venice. St. Marc Basilica. Venice. Postcard showing St. Marc.

In 1797 the Venetian Republic was conquered and ended by Napoleon Bonaparte, who turned the territory over to Austria. In 1805 Austria was compelled to yield Venice to the French-controlled kingdom of Italy but regained it in 1814. A year later Venice and Lombardy (Lombardia) were combined to form the Lombardo-Venetia Kingdom. The Venetians, under the Italian statesman Daniele Manin, revolted against Austrian rule in 1848, and a new republic was established. Austria, however, reestablished control a year later. In 1866, after the Seven Weeks’ War, Venice became part of the newly established kingdom of Italy. In 1998 Greece celebrated 500 years of the Greek Community in Venice, starting when the Byzantine Empire fell apart in 1453.  The stamps show icons and holy manuscripts from the Orthodox community in Venice.

Greece 1998. Venice. "Christ Pantocrator". Greece 1998. Venice. "St. George of the Greeks". Greece 1998. Venice. "Church of St. George of the Greeks"- Greece 1998. Venice. Illuminated script of the hymn "Epi Soi Hairei" by Giorgios Klontzas.

Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world's greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others. 

Italy 1968. Venice. St. Marc Cathedral and the Ducal Palace.

Italy 1993. Venice. "View of Venice" towards the main landing.

Italy 1998. Venice. The Peggy Guggenheim Museum of Modern Arts.

Modern Venice has faced many challenges, including loss of population to other areas and physical damage from flooding, sinkage, air and water pollution, and age. After severe flooding in 1966, an international effort to preserve historic Venice was coordinated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and many structures were renovated and preserved. Flooding has occurred throughout the history of the city; it is caused when high tides combine with storm winds, and has been combatted with experiments using mechanical barriers. The sinkage of buildings and other structures, caused by the drainage of underground aquifers, has been addressed by limits on groundwater usage and the construction of an aqueduct from the nearby Alps.

Dahomey 1972. Venice. Mosaics in St. Marc Basilica. Stamp #1. Dahomey 1972. Venice. Mosaics in St. Marc Basilica. Stamp #2. Dahomey 1972. Venice. Mosaics in St. Marc Basilica. Stamp #3.

The origin of the name Venice is unknown and much disputed, but is currently believed to be Phoenician. The Phoenicians, contemporary with the Etruscans, were the first to land in the lagoon and establish a trade place there. Looking at the word "Phoenician" and "transliterating" it to "Phenice", the name Venice comes immediately to mind. Among foreign words of Venetian origin are: arsenal, ciao, ghetto, gondola, lagoon, lido, Montenegro, and Venezuela, the latter meaning "Little Venice". The city's patron is St. Mark, the Evangelist. 

The Vatican 1972. Registered First Day Cover, showing a fresco of a plan of Venice in 1581. The original art work is the property of the Vatican City "Carte Geografiche" Gallery.

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in Italy (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Italy for further information about such sites. 

Back to index


Revised 13 jul 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
All Rights Reserved