Venice and the Byzantine Empire

According to a Renaissance myth and idea, Venice was a miracolossima city, born from nothing during the plight of the Roman Republic. Free from all authority, Venice was unlike any other city. While many at the time may feel as if the myth of Venice was less fiction more reality, Venice’s origins and history does seem a tale of legend compared to others surrounding it. Beginning as an imperial Roman region, the early medieval area known as Venetia had a few settlements on it consisting of Roman Venetia and Istrians. The area which the people colonized was called Aqueleia but in 568, following a split in the Roman Venetia and Istria, the patriarch of Aquileia moved the Episcopal see of Aquileia to the new regional capital, Grado. This move of the Lombard patriarch onto an established Eastern port-of-call, “found itself settled in a basically urban habitat marked by the influence of Rome and situated at the Eastern extremity of Venetia Maritima.”[1]

Grado was transformed into one of the chief fortified junctions of the northern Byzantine region. This fortified area became the religious center of the Venice province and its surrounding Adriatic territories. Over the centuries the patriarch of Grado gained metropolitan and religious authority over the surrounding bishoprics establishing Venice as an emerging city. During the decades following the reign of Justinian in Constantinople, Venice saw a growing unity amongst its many subparts as well as an increasing role as the northern cultural center to the Adriatic, Mediterranean and Near East. This put a rift between the Lombard ruled Terrafirma and the Byzantine-controlled Adriatic coast. The final schism between Venice and Terrafirma took place during the 9th century when which the Venetian lagoons claimed independence from the Italian mainland and Venice reinforced its relationship with Constantinople.[2]

[1] Ennio Concina,. A History of Venetian Architecture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 11

[2] Richard Goy. Venice: The City and its Architecture. New York: Phaidon Press, 1999. 144-145

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[…] of Charlemagne and his heirs on the one hand, and the dwindling imperial majesty of the eastern Byzantine realm on the other. Venice invented herself, lifted herself out of the sea, and carved out a unique […]

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