The Grand Canal of Venice, is the most important waterway of the city and effectively splits the city into two sides. It is also known as “Canal Grande” (Italian), “Canal Grando” (Venetian) and “Canalasso” (Historical).
Viewed from a map or satellite view, the Grand Canal is a large reverse-S shape canal that passes through the centre of the city. The waterway is subject to twice daily tides.
It is 3.8 km (2.4 miles) long, 30 to 90 m (98 to 295 ft) wide, with an average depth of 5 metres (16 feet).
The northern end of the canal is located between the districts of Cannaregio and Santa Croce, near to the Santa Lucia railway station; while the southern end leads into the famous Saint Mark’s Basin, overlooked by the impressive Basilica Santa Maria della Salute.
On the left:
View of the entrance of the southern end of the Grand Canal, where it enters the Basin of San Marco.
The Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, the Dogana da Mar (Old Customs House) and the Patriarchal Seminary of Venice (Bishop of Venice’s Palace)
FIRST SETTLEMENTS AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE GRAND CANAL
It is thought that the Grand Canal in Venice might have followed the course of an ancient river, possibly a branch of the Brenta flowing into the lagoon.
Historical data shows that groups of Adriatic Veneti people might have lived beside the formerly-named “Rio Businiacus”, even before the Roman age; living in stilt-houses and reliant on fishing and simple commerce (mainly salt). At that time the main canal was wider and flowed between small tide-subjected islands; interconnected by simple wooden bridges. Under the rule of the Roman and then of the Byzantine Empire, the lagoon became populated and increasingly important.
The political and economic power of Venice grew rapidly. As a consequence, in the early 9th C the Doge moved his seat from Malamocco on the Lido, to Venice. There, in the safer area of “Rivoaltus” (Rialto) the highest point of between 2-3 metres; the Venetian Republic could be safe and thrive.
It was this decision that gave birth to the city of Venice.
Venetians successfully managed their limited assets and focused on trades. In this regard, the Lagoon of Venice was essential as it gave protection from enemies and the Grand Canal was an ideal and safe deep-water terminal for Venetian trade overseas.
Over time, the power and wealth of Venice grew so much that Rialto became the most important market in Europe. This supremacy lasted for many centuries.
Above left: Salute in the Sea-Mist
Ships filled with merchandise, weighing more than 400 tons, sailed along the Canal Grande back and forth from Rialto. Venice became the major trading centre of the Mediterranean.
Unsurprisingly, the Grand Canal was also the place of birth of the “Fonteghi” – large buildings acting as warehouses and lodging, for the hundreds of merchants coming from every part of the Mediterranean.
After the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797, much of the palatial construction in Venice was suspended, as symbolised by the unfinished San Marcuola and Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (housing the Peggy Guggenheim Collection). The Patrician families, bereft of their hereditary role in governance and sometimes persecuted by revolutionary forces, sought other residences. Several historical palaces were pulled down, but many found other uses and some restorations have saved their 18th-century appearance. By the late 20th century, most of the more prominent palaces were owned by the city, state, or civic institutions.
During the era of the Napoleonic era, suppression of the monastic religious orders vacated large sectors of real estate in the city. It also freed large amounts of furnishings and works of art into the antiquarian market or into the possession of the state. Large monasteries changed functions: the Santa Maria della Carità complex became a museum, the Gallerie dell’Accademia; whilst the Santa Croce complex, was converted into the Papadopoli Gardens area. The Santa Lucia complex (partially designed by Palladio), was razed for the establishment of the Santa Lucia Railway Station.
The Kingdom of Italy’s accession, restored serenity in the city and stimulated construction along the Grand Canal. Respecting its beauty, the city often reproduced in Gothic Revival architectural style; such as the Pescaria (Fish Market) at Rialto.
Basic Facts of the Building Process of Palaces
Venice is built on alluvial mud, that has compressed into a harder shale-like substance.
The foundations of most buildings in the city are comprised of large numbers of resinous timber piles driven into the mud. Slowly, they take in minerals from the lagoon water and become almost calcified.
Above this are laid layers of stone and rubble to form a platform.
Early Venetian buildings were made of timber, as seen in late medieval art, very susceptible to fire and infestation.
Later, the normal building material used was brick faced with marble or Istrian stone. Stucco (Marmorino or Cocciopesto), was the typical finish for interior walls and some exteriors; made from grinding limestone, brick and terracotta fragments.
Unlike the palaces or houses of wealthy families in other cities in Italy, defence was not a major concern for Venetian palaces; which in any cases often had canals on some sides.
Because of space problems, buildings were tightly packed and in successive eras were rebuilt; using as much existing materials as possible including foundations.
Buildings were rectangular, with most decoration to the waterfront aspect, accessed by boat
It was common to add extra stories to existing buildings, to overcome lack of space.
Buildings close together are often linked by small structural bridges, to stop lateral movement.
Flat ceilings supported with timber beams were preferred to vaults, which might have cracked; as the building settled on the pile foundations.
Typically two layers of floorboards placed at right angles to each other, sat on the joists.
Different types of wood were used for different purposes both structural and decorative.
The chimney pots and their external flues are seen to the sides of buildings, where the bedrooms were located, to keep them warm.
The distinctive and very large Venetian chimney-pots, with a terracotta covered top like an inverted cone, were designed to stop dangerous sparks from escaping and starting fires.
The main large and multiple windows were mostly located on the frontage, to gain more light into the internal rooms.
Most buildings have a wooden roof terrace or “Altana”. These were often used by Venetian women, to socialise and sunbath and avoid the stench especially in summer! Hair bleaching was common practice amongst the noble and wealthy ladies, by using various potions to obtain a reddish “titian” shade and wearing special open but wide-rimmed sun hats.
In earlier times, ladies wore the first “platform” shoes, to avoid the filth and squalor of unpaved walkways.
Life on the Grand Canal of Venice today
Today, the Canal Grande is still the most important and busiest canal in Venice.
It is hard to grasp that practically everything in the city has to be distributed by water transportation. Even the waste generated is collected by boat. The logistics to keep this city functioning is incredible.
The cost of living is so high that most workers and tourists pile into Venice from the mainland, via the bus and rail terminals at the north-western end of the Grand Canal and then either hop on a vaporetto to get to their destination or walk.
In the early morning boats bring fruit and vegetables and fish, to the Mercato di Rialto.
During the rest of the day, the Grand Canal is busy with goods and parcel deliveries, gondolas and water taxis. Vaporetti (water buses), slowly plie their way from one stop to another, up and down the canal.
Every visitor should take the No1 Vaporetto to appreciate and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Grand Canal.
Occasionally police and ambulances race by sounding their alarms and even the deceased travel by boat to their final resting place!
Looking down from the Rialto Bridge, it’s hard not to conclude that on this busy canal; it’s a miracle that all these forms of water transport manage to avoid each other!
Traditional Celebrations on the Grand Canal
On the first Sunday of September the Historical Regatta (“Regata Storica”) takes place, a competition between Venetian boats, watched by thousands of people from the embankment or floating stands. Competitions are preceded by a historical procession (“Corteo Storico”), remembering the entrance of the Queen of Cyprus – Catherine Cornaro after abdication in 1489. Gondoliers in traditional costumes, sail in typical 16th C boats following the “Bucentaur”; the doge’s state galley.
On November 21, Venetians celebrate “The Feast-day of the Madonna della Salute”.
Giving thanks to the Virgin Mary for salvation from the Great Plague” epidemic in 1630-38, pilgrims cross the Grand Canal on a temporary pontoon bridge from Campo Santa Maria Zobenigo to the Basilica.
THE FOUR BRIDGES OVER THE GRAND CANAL OF VENICE
Today, only four bridges cross the Grand Canal, built in different eras and styles.
***** For more detailed information, please see my post “The Grand Canal and its Four Bridges”*****
From North-West to South-East they are:
Constitution Bridge. On north-eastern end of the Canal Grande is the most recent bridge, the “Ponte dell Costituzione,” (Constitution Bridge); built in 2008.
It is also known as the “Calatrava Bridge,” after the name of the Spanish architect Calatrava, who drew up the project and managed its construction.
This bridge connects the districts of Cannaregio and Santa Croce. Its main purpose was to link more effectively the Santa Lucia train station and Piazzale Roma bus terminal; the only part of Venice accessible by rail, bus and car.
Unfortunately, it is the least liked and most controversial bridge in Venice for three reasons.
Firstly, the bridge cost far more than expected to build and maintain. Secondly, the bridge is not well optimized for the soft ground of Venice. As a consequence, it has to be continuously monitored since it’s pushing the two sides of the canal apart with implications on its stability. Thirdly, its design with a rather steep profile and glass steps make it difficult for the elderly and slippery; especially in the wet and in winter.
The Barefoot Bridge. Next is the “Ponte degli Scalzi“(Barefoot Bridge), a white stone bridge located just to one side of the Train Station. Just like the “Ponte della Costituzione”, the bridge also connects the districts of Cannaregio on the northern side and Santa Croce on the southern aspect
Until the more recent Ponte della Costituzione, the “Ponte degli Scalzi” was the last bridge to be built on the Grand Canal in 1934.
It was built during the Fascist era in Italy, replacing an iron bridge that had been made during the Austrian domination.
The Rialto Bridge. The Ponte di Rialto halfway along the Grand Canal in the centre of Venice; is undoubtedly the most important bridge in Venice.
It was the only bridge on the Grand Canal at the time of the Venetian Republic.
The Ponte di Rialto on the Grand Canal in Venice connected the heart of the political and religious power of the Serenissima in the district of Saint Mark’s with the heart of the economic and financial power of the city in the district of San Polo. A series of narrow streets called the “Le Mercerie” linking both centres; are lined with tourist shops and fashion boutiques.
The first structure was built in wood in 1250. It was drawbridge and therefore allowed larger sailing ships along the entire length of the Grand Canal reaching the Rialto area; which once was both the port and the trading part of the city.
The wooden bridge changed over time, but was damaged on several occasions over the centuries.
Finally, in 1591 Antonio da Ponte designed the Rialto Bridge and is entirely made of white stone and is a magnet for tourism and “selfie” lovers. The latest restoration was recently completed.
The Academy (Accademia) Bridge. It is he last and most southerly bridge; the only wooden bridge crossing the Grand Canal.
It derives its name from the nearby Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia (the Fine Arts Academy of Venice), which was founded in 1807.
In fact, while this very important crossing between the districts of Dorsoduro and San Marco had been suggested as far back as 1488, the bridge was never built during the Venetian Republic.
The first version of the Ponte dell’Accademia made of steel, was finished in 1854 during the Austrian occupation of Venice.
However, in 1933 during the Fascism era, the Austrian-made steel bridge was demolished and replaced by a wooden bridge.
Wood requires more maintenance than stone, therefore the Accademia Bridge has to be subject to more frequent renovation and indeed was fully replaced in 1986. The most recent renovation, took place during 2017-2018.
ARCHITECTURAL STYLES ALONG THE GRAND CANAL OF VENICE
The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings – palaces originally built for the noble and wealthy merchant class; commercial warehousing and lodging facilities and places of worship. Most date from the 13th to the 18th C and demonstrate the fabulous architectural and artistic culture, created by the Republic of Venice. The noble Venetian families spared little expense to display their wealth and status. It also revealed not only their pride and deep bond with their city; but their highly competitive nature. This rivalry positively affected the architecture on the Grand Canal.
Altogether, it’s an eclectic mix and impressive display of architectural and artistic know-how.
THE PALACES (Palazzi – singular: palazzo) on the Canal Grande belong to different times, styles, and movements; however, the Venetians very much put their own stamp on these various periods of architectural styles.
Palaces found along the Grand Canal include those from the Byzantine, Gothic, Venetian Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical periods.
***** Please see my post: Venetian Palace Architectural Styles, for more detailed information.*****
Palaces have no paved walkway at the front aspect, so open directly onto the canal. People and goods all came by boat.
Canal Poles (Pali di Casada) are the iconic, colourful and distinctive waterside poles found lining the entrance to these important buildings. Painted in distinct family colours, their function was not for mooring but to enable visitors arriving by boat to recognise their destination, at night or in the mist.
***** Please see my post “Canal Poles – Pali di Casada”, for their fascinating history and manufacture*****
After the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, Venetian families lost much of their economic power and buildings began to suffer lack of maintenance and renovation.
In some cases, financial shortages at the end of the Republic led occasional buildings to be left unfinished. Two such examples are the facade of the church San Marcuola and the famous Palazzo Venier dei Leoni; now a museum and home of Peggy Guggenheim and her collection.
Several historical palaces and even religious buildings were sacrificed to make way for Napoleon’s modernisation plans for the city.
Until the late 20th C, most of the more prominent palaces were still owned by the city of Venice, the Italian State, or by Italian institutions.
Today, only a few people live on the Grand Canal. Most of the palaces that can be admired are now hotels, museums, or public administration buildings.
The Venetian-Byzantine style
Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The empire emerged gradually after AD 330, when Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium, which was later named Constantinople and is now Istanbul. Early Byzantine architecture is essentially a continuation of Roman architecture.
The Fourth Crusade, with the loot brought back from the sack of Constantinople (1204), and other historical situations; gave Venice an Eastern influence until the late 14th C. From the Byzantine empire, goods arrived together with sculptures, friezes, columns and capitals to decorate the grand houses of patrician families.
Byzantine art merged with previous elements, resulting in a “Venetian-Byzantine” style; which in architecture was characterized by large loggias with round or elongated arches and by polychrome marble abundance.
During this period, Rialto had an intense building development, determining the conformation of the Grand Canal and surrounding areas. In Venice building materials were precious and foundations usually retained. In the subsequent restorations existing elements would be re-used, mixing the Venetian-Byzantine and the new styles of gothic and renaissance architecture (Ca’ Sagredo, Palazzo Bembo). Three-partitioned façades, loggias, diffuse openings, polychromy, and room disposition; formed a particular architectural taste that continued in the future.
In Venice only a few examples of Byzantine palaces from the 13th and 14th century have survived and others from that period that still exist, have been thoroughly modified during later periods ; to Gothic or Renaissance styles.
Fortunately, along the Grand Canal, these elements are well preserved in Ca’ Farsetti, Ca’ Loredan (just south of the Rialto bridge and both municipal seats) and Ca’ da Mosto (just north of the bridge and now being redeveloped as a luxury hotel); all dating back to the 12th or 13th C.
The façade of Ca’ da Mosto, clearly shows two additional floors that were grafted on to the original two-story building during a later period.
These early palaces, were termed Casa-Fondaco (Venetian: Fontego pl: Fonteghi); grand but functional buildings for trading, storage and living and the fact that everything arrived at the front by boat.
The distribution of the arches and windows on different levels of the facade, reflect the function of the Casa-Fondaco and the hierarchy of its internal spaces.
Typically, at ground floor level, the façade shows an arcade of columns with smoothly rounded tops forming a loggia (gallery), which opened into a portego (main entrance hall), used primarily for loading and unloading. This was flanked on each side by a row of smaller rooms, used for storage. To the rear was a courtyard and usually a well, with an external staircase to the piano-nobile (noble floor) on the first floor.
The first-floor hall, was used initially as a display area for merchandise, but later functioned as a splendid setting for entertaining. The arched loggia generally took up most of the width of the first floor. Lateral wings were used as administrative offices. The stories above were used for family and servant accommodation.
The Fourth Crusade, with the loot brought back from the Sack of Constantinople (1204), and other historical situations; gave Venice an Eastern influence until the late 14th C.
Venetian Gothic Style
Venetian Gothic is the local variant architectural style for Venice of Italian Gothic architecture. It derives from a confluence of influences from local building requirements, some influence from Byzantine and Islamic architecture; reflecting Venice’s trading network. Very unusually for medieval architecture, the style is both at its most characteristic in secular buildings and the great majority of those surviving are secular.
The best-known examples are the Doge’s Palace and on the Grand Canal, the Ca’ d’Oro. Both feature loggias of closely spaced small columns, with heavy tracery and quatrefoil openings above; decoration along the roofline and some coloured patterning to plain wall surfaces. Together with the ogee arch, capped with a relief ornament, and ropework reliefs; these are the most iconic characteristics of the style. Ecclesiastical Gothic architecture tended to be less distinctively Venetian and closer to that in the rest of Italy.
Above: Ca D’Oro 1428-30. Now Gallery Giorgio Franchetti
Among the 15th C palaces still showing the original appearance, are Palazzo Bernardo a San Polo, Ca’ Foscari (now housing the University of Venice), Palazzo Pisani Moretta, Palazzi Barbaro and Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti.
It dominated the 14th C and because of the city’s conservatism Venetian Gothic buildings, especially smaller palaces, continued to be built well into the second half of the 15th C. Venetian Renaissance architecture very often retained reminiscences of its Gothic predecessor.In the 19th century, inspired in particular by the writings of John Ruskin, there was a revival of the style, part of the broader Gothic Revival movement in Victorian architecture. Even in the Middle Ages, Venetian palaces were built on very constricted sites and were tall rectangular boxes with decoration concentrated on the front facade. The style was therefore developed for a similar architectural context to that found in late 19th C city centre streets.
Venetian Renaissance Style
Venetian Renaissance architecture began rather later than in Florence, not before the 1480’s and throughout the period mostly relied on architects imported from elsewhere in Italy. The city was very rich during this period and prone to fires, so there was a large amount of construction work being carried out.
Compared to the Renaissance architecture of other Italian cities, there was a degree of conservatism, especially in retaining the overall form of buildings; which in the city were usually replacements on a confined site.
The Venetian elite had a collective belief in the importance of architecture in bolstering confidence in the Republic and a Senate resolution in 1535 noted that it was “the most beautiful and illustrious city which at present exists in the world”. Overt competition between patrician families was discouraged, in favour of “harmonious equality”.
Renaissance facades were usually faced with Istrian stone, a fine limestone that is not strictly a marble and quarried in Istria (Croatia). The advantage over marble is that it better withstood the salt in the coastal air and flooding. Different coloured stone were often used for contrast, especially a red stone from Verona.
By the start of the 16th C, Renaissance architecture motifs appeared in such buildings as the Palazzo Dario and the Palazzo Corner Spinelli; the latter designed by Mauro Codussi from Lombardy, pioneer of this style in Venice.
Above: Palazzo Corner Spinelli
Ca’ Vendramin Calergi another of his projects (now the Casino), reveals a completed transition: the numerous and large and round-arched windows and columns in the three part classical order.
Classical architecture is more evident in Jacopo Sansovino’s projects, a Florentine who arrived from Rome in 1527. Along the Grand Canal, he designed Palazzo Corner and Palazzo Dolfin Manin; known for grandiosity, the horizontal layout of the white façades and the development around a central courtyard.
Other Renaissance buildings are Palazzo Papadopoli and Palazzo Grimani di San Luca
Several palaces of this period had façades with frescoes by renowned artists, all of them unfortunately lost. Particularly noteworthy were the frescoes by Veronese and Zelotti on Ca Cappello, overlooking the Grand Canal.
Venetian Baroque Style
Venetian Baroque palaces are really a progression of the Renaissance style in which decoration took over the design. New architectural concerns for colour, light and shade, sculptural values and intensity characterise the Baroque.
They were built mostly in the 17th century during the beginning of Venice’s decline. These are massive structures with some of the same characteristics as Renaissance palaces, but with extensive ornamentation and a much more imposing grandeur; but still with a feeling of order and symmetry.
But whereas the Renaissance drew on the wealth and power of the Italian courts and was a blend of secular and religious forces, the Baroque was initially at least, directly linked to the Counter-Reformation; a movement within the Catholic Church to reform itself in response to the Protestant Reformation.
By now the use of these buildings as palazzo-fontego (home or warehouse) had vanished and they became ostentatious centres for social life and entertaining.
In 1582, Alessandro Vittoria began the construction of Palazzo Balbi (now housing the Government of Veneto), in which Baroque elements can be recognized: fashioned cornices, broken pediments, ornamental motifs.
The major Baroque architect in Venice was Baldassarre Longhena. In 1631 he began to build the magnificent Basilica of Santa Maria Della Salute, one of the most beautiful churches in Venice and an iconic symbol at the southern end of the Grand Canal. The classical layout of the façade features decorations and by many statues, the latter also crowning the refined volutes surrounding the major dome.
The last grand palaces in the opulent Baroque style, Ca’ Pesaro and Ca’Rezzonico (built 1649-1756), were designed by Baldassare Longhena (1598-1682) and are today both used as
Above: Ca Pesaro
museums. Ca’Rezzonico is fitted on the inside with rooms.
decorated as they were at the height of the 17th C. He also designed the Santa Maria di Nazareth church (Chiesa degli Scalzi), near to the train station and Scalzi Bridge. Unfortunately, the great architect did not see any of these buildings finished.
The 16th and 17th centuries mark the beginning of the Republic’s decline, but nevertheless they saw the highest building activity on the Grand Canal. This can be partially explained by the increasing number of families becoming patrician, by the payment of an enormous sum to the Republic; which was then facing financial difficulties. Once these families had achieved this new status, they built themselves impressive residences on the Canal; often inducing other families to renew theirs.
Neoclassical architecture along the Canal dates to the 18th C. During the first half was built the church of San Simeone Piccolo, with an impressive Corinthian portico, central plan and a high copper-covered dome, topped by a cupola shaped as a temple. Another late fine example is the Palazzo Grassi by Massari.
Neoclassicism first gained influence in Paris, through a generation of French art students trained at the French Academy in Rome. The first phase was expressed in “Louis XVI style”, whilst the second phase was termed “Empire style”; favoured during the Napoleonic period.
Beginning in the mid-18th century, it moved away from the highly decorative elements of the Baroque and returned to the harmonious elements of classical architecture. Intellectually, Neoclassicism was symptomatic of a desire to return to the perceived “purity” of the arts of Rome and to a lesser extent sixteenth-century Renaissance Classicism; the source for academic Late Baroque.
The last great palace to be built in Venice was the Palazzo Grassi and stands alone in Venice as a majestic example of neoclassical architecture. It was built but not completed in 1766 and attributed to Giorgio Massari (1687-1766); just before the Venetian Republic collapsed in 1797. It was finally finished in 1772, after Massari’s death.
A feature of Palazzo Grassi its its salons arranged around a balustraded central light well.
The trend in neoclassical architecture lasted through the beginning of the 20th C and became the backbone of the monumental civic building of many of the world’s great cities.
Above: Pallazo Civran Grimaldi
THE FONTEGHI ON THE GRAND CANAL
Fonteghi (singular: fontego Italian: fondaco) were buildings which were both a warehouse and home for foreign merchants in Venice.
As Venice became an ever-stronger hub of trade, the number of foreign merchants working in Venice increased. Consequently, so did the number of the fonteghi, which were highly valued by the Venetian Republic.
Apart from providing merchants with storerooms and lodging, they made it easy for the Republic to keep a close eye on the trading activity and enforce the payment of taxes.
Like many things in Venice, these buildings had a typical structure, optimised for function. Occasionally, lateral defensive towers (torreselle), can be seen.
A portico (curia) covers the embankment and facilitates the ships’ unloading. From the portico, a corridor flanked by storerooms reaches a posterior courtyard. Similarly, on the first floor a loggia as large as the portico illuminates the hall, into which open the merchant’s rooms. The façade is thereby divided into an airy central part and two more lateral sides. A low mezzanine with offices divides the two floors.
Two famous examples on the Grand Canal are:
The Fontego dei Turchi, which dates back to the 13th C, has been heavily restored in the 19th C, is today the city’s Museum of Natural History. The house has substantial lateral defensive towers (torreselle).
The Fontego dei Turchi, was built as a palazzo for the Pesaro family in the 13th C. With its imposing Grand Canal facade, it is one of the most famous secular buildings in Venice.
Its double loggia in the so-called Venetian-Byzantine style reflects the purpose for which the building was created, as a trading depot for goods coming from the East; the corner towers are similar to the defensive structures that were part of Early Medieval family palazzi.
In 1381 the building was given to Nicolò d’Este, lord of Ferrara. In 1621, after changing hands several times; became the Fontego for Turkish merchants in the city.
It was used for this purpose right up until 1838 and then from 1865 onward, underwent extensive restoration work. Thereafter it housed the Museo Correr and finally from 1923 onward has been the Natural History Museum.
The Fontego dei Tedeschi, close to the northern side of the Rialto Bridge, was once the Germanic peoples lodging and warehousing facility. Its impressive size gives a good idea of the number of foreign merchants working in Venice at the time.
Today it has been transformed into a luxury department store, with an impressive viewing gallery over the Rialto district.
First constructed in 1228, the building was rebuilt between 1505 and 1508; after its destruction by fire. The reconstruction in typical Italian Renaissance style, produced a very functional four-floor building which surrounds a grand inner courtyard.
Like the Fondaco dei Turchi, it combines the functions of a palace, warehouse, market and restricted living quarters for its population, mainly Germanic merchants.
The ground floor accessible by water, was used for storage; whilst the first floor was dedicated to offices and an upper area contained about 160 living quarters.
The German merchants arrived shortly after the building was originally constructed in the 13th C and stayed until the Napoleonic occupation. It was one of the city’s most powerful colonies of merchants and consequently the fondaco became an important trading center for goods passing from the Orient, on their way towards the Alps. The Venetian Republic took commission on the transactions of the fondaco.
The German community worshipped at a nearby Catholic church, San Bartolomeo.
CHURCHES ON THE GRAND CANAL
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, is found at the narrow eastern end of the district of Dorsoduro, where the Grand and Guidecca Canals meet. The point or “Punta della Dogana”, consists of three historical buildings, the Dogana da Mar (Old Customs House – now a contemporary art museum), the Basilica and the Patriarchal Seminary of Venice (Palace of the Bishop of Venice).
“Salute” is one of the most beautiful churches in Venice and an iconic symbol towering over the southern end of the Grand Canal.
It features in what is considered to be two of the classic views of Venice; recorded over the centuries by artists and photographers. Sunrise and especially sunset are the best times to capture these magical views.
First, is the view from the Academy Bridge looking down the Grand Canal, towards the Basilica.
The other is the from the Molo, a panoramic view looking south across the St Mark’s Basin towards the island of San Giorgio di Maggiori; where the “Salute” forms the eastern end of the skyline.
The major Baroque architect in Venice was Baldassare Longhena (1598–1682). In 1631 he began to build the magnificent Basilica. The main church is an octagonal structure and has two domes (major and minor) and two towers at the rear. The classical layout of the façade features decorations and many statues; the latter also crowning the refined volutes surrounding the major dome.
Left: “Salute” at sunset, from the Riva degli Shiavoni
OTHER PUBLIC BUILDINGS ON THE GRAND CANAL OF VENICE
Several public buildings were built along the Canal Grande in Venice. especially around the Rialto area; which once was the hub of the commercial activity.
These palaces functioned to facilitate the trading activity of the city and were as diverse as commercial and financial benches (Palazzo dei Camerlenghi and Palazzo dei Dieci Savi, rebuilt after 1514 fire) and even a Mint (Zecca), where money was coined under the authority of the Republic.
Last Light over Ca D’Or on the Grand Canal
———-THE GRAND CANAL OF VENICE———-