The Lure of Venice

October 14, 2011
“There is something so different in Venice from any other place in the world, that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden..” Mary Shelley


Barry Greenlaw took us to Venice, to experience the history and culture of this enchanting city that became one of the greatest economic and cultural powers in the history of the western world. In his Sunday lecture, we were immersed in the the history of this city born out of a marshy lagoon in the time of the Romans.

Did you know…

* Venice is slowly sinking, and has sunk by about 24 centimeters over the past century.
* Venice has no sewer system. Household waste flows into the canals and is washed out into the sea twice a day with the tides.
* Famous people associated with Venice include Titian, Tintoretto, Marco Polo and Vivaldi.

Here are some facts about famous denizens of Venice, followed by famous quotes about this “City of the Sea”.

Titian (1477 – 1576 )

Titian was a prominent artist during the Renaissance and a renowned Venetian portraitist. His works have been treasured all around the world over the centuries. His first painting, ‘The Three Frescos in Padua’, allowed him to rise to become appointed as the official painter of Italy.

Tintoretto (1518-1594)

Tintoretto, a Venetian painter, typified the movement of Mannerism and was influenced by Michelangelo. He is known today for his bold use of color and the stunning manipulation of light and shadow. During his time, he was not well liked by contemporary artists, who accused him of social climbing, among other things. Yet he conceived of art as a social good, a healing and teaching vision for the people. His work still creates a feeling of enclosure and unreality, and his heralded manipulation of light leads inward, to a realm of spiritual meditation.

Marco Polo (1254 – 1324)

Marco Polo was born in Venice to a wealthy family of merchants. In 1271, he went with his father and uncle to China. He stayed for the next seventeen years, and became an emissary, sent on diplomatic missions throughout the empire to Burma, Indo-China, Tibet, and further. He was forced by Kubla Khan to be the governor of a nearby commercial city and he did this for three years. When he finally returned to his home in Venice, he had probably traveled farther than anybody before him.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741 )

A native of Venice, Vivaldi was a priest and a composer, known for his red hair. He is mainly known for his violin concertos, four of which he arranged together in the series ‘Four Seasons’ (1723), which is still frequently performed. His father was a professional violinist who toured Venice and who took his young son with him. In 1693, Vivaldi studied to become a priest and was ordained at 25. Because of his hair color, he was known as the “Red Priest”. Soon after, he had to withdraw from active priesthood. He worked as a music teacher at a school for orphans and also composed his music.

Famous Quotes about Venice

“A splendour of miscellaneous spirits.” ~ John Ruskin

“Wherever you go in life, you will feel somewhere over your shoulder a pink, castellated shimmering presence, the domes and riggings and crooked pinacles of the Serenissima.” – Jan Morris

“It is held by some that this word VENETIA signifies VENI ETIAM, that is, come again, and again, for however oft you come, you will always see new things, and new beauties.” ~ Sansovino

“If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is – Venice is better.” ~ Fran Lebowitz

“In the winter, Venice is like an abandoned theatre. The play is finished, but the echoes remain.” ~ Arbit Blatas

“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.” ~ Alexander Herzen

“Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy.”
~ George Gordon Noel Byron “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”

“Until it seems the whole city
will be covered with gold pollen shaken
from the bell-towers, lilies plundered
with the weight of massive bees . . .”
~ Hilda Doolittle “Tribute to the Angels”

“It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.”
~ Erica Jong

“White swan of cities slumbering in thy nest . . .
White phantom city, whose untrodden streets
Are rivers, and whose pavements are the shifting
Shadows of the palaces and strips of sky.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Venice”

“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty-this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.”
~ Thomas Mann

“Underneath Day’s azure eyes,
Ocean’s nursling, Venice lies,
A peopled labyrinth of walls,
Amphitrite’s destined halls,”
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley “Lines Written among the Euganean Hills”

“Streets flooded.
Please advise.” ~ Robert Benchley, telegram from Venice to his editor

“Venice, the only place where you can get seasick by crossing the street.” ~ Anonymous

“Venice would be a fine city if it were only drained.” ~ Ulysses S. Grant

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” ~ Truman Capote