30 August, 2006

97. The last hurrah

This very serious and impressive winged lion of St.Mark - clearly a lion this time and no other beast - commemorates what turned out to be the last futile attempt by Venice to try to regain some of its former glorious independence.

In 1797, Ludovico Manin, the last Doge, resigned when his city was taken over by Napoleon, who six months later signed Venice over to Austrian rule. During the next fifty years or so of Austrian occupation, much of the spark went out of Venice, it fell into decline and disrepair, with many of the fine old palaces abandoned and in some cases left derelict.

In 1847, Daniele Manin (who was no relation to the former Doge, but nevertheless a fierce Venetian patriot) presented a petition to the puppet consultative assembly that was critical of their Austrian masters, and he was promptly arrested and charged with high treason. The Venetian people rallied to the cause of this Austrian-hating lawyer and supporter of Italian unity and by March the next year the Austrian governor was forced to release him. But it was too late, rebellion was afoot and the Austrians soon lost control of the arsenal and they evacuated the city, leaving Manin to be proclaimed president of the Venetian Republic.

Determined to unify Venice with the rest of Italy, Manin resigned his powers in favour of Piedmont six months later, only to see Piedmont abandon Venetia to the newly reinforced Austrians who set about occupying the Venetian mainland and laying siege to the main city of Venice. The citizens stood firm against recapture and early in 1849, Manin was again appointed president, this time with unlimited powers to defend the city, which he did skillfully and energetically, to the best of his considerable organisational ability.

It was a doomed resistance. By August, ammunition and provisions were exhausted, and the Austrian batteries were close enough to start bombarding the city, at which point Manin negotiated an honourable amnesty, accepting exile for himself and a few others as the price of peace.

He never returned to his beloved Venice and died in exile in Paris in 1857. Two years after the Austrians left Venice for the last time in 1866, Manin's body was brought back to Venice and given a state funeral as the hero of the resistance, the man who gave the Lion of Venice its final roar.


Anonymous Ivonne said...


I've been enjoying your blog for quite some time now. The Old Foodie sent me the link. I've never been to Venice but when I do visit I shall have your writing to guide me!

August 31, 2006 4:37 AM  
Blogger HelenParker said...

Great blog! Here is more on lions!

Hanging in almost every corner of Venice, the beautiful sculptures of the winged lion represent the symbol of this city and of the land conquered during its vast dominium and ancient Republic.
Other than decorating the city or showcasing the conquered places, some lions such as the lions’ mouth of truth had curious and less ornamental purposes.

Still visible in Venice and crafted as white marble bas-reliefs, these mouths of truth were depicting the head of a lion or sometimes, an elaborate facial expression.
In place of the mouth, there was a hole to insert the sheets of paper with the secret complaints of the Venetians.
The complaints could relate to several types of crimes including blasphemy and tax evasion.
Due to their huge popularity, the Lions’ mouths of truth were located near the hospitals, on the facades of churches, near the houses of judges but also in St. Marks’ square, Palazzo Ducale.
The charges could not be anonymous and had to cite at least two witnesses, otherwise the accusers were burned by the judges.

The most dangerous secret complaints were those that were made on charges of treason and conspiracy against the State. It seems that the first Lions’ mouths of truth were introduced after the attempted coup of Baiamonte Tiepolo in 1310.
In this case, even without supporting witnesses, complaints were forwarded to the dreaded Council of Ten, who immediately investigated the suspects. Thus began the shadowing and often preventative imprisonment of the accused.
The suspect could remain for weeks or months in chains, awaiting trial.
Through the years, Venetians have been replicating sculptures of lions and there are still a few companies in Venice, such as Ithaca Art http://www.ithaca-art.com who continues to replicate by carefully following the ancient techniques.

If you want to know more about Venetian Lions or add a Venetian touch to your home and garden then you can buy a bas-relief wall art sculpture replica from Ithaca Art at http://www.ithaca-art.com/venetian-lions
Want to know more about Venetian lions? Visit http://www.ithaca-art.com

ABOUT ITHACA ART: Ithaca Art http://www.ithaca-art.com is one the leading sources of museum-quality reproductions. With a new website launched last month, Ithaca Art’s artists are trained in art history and classic craftsmanship.
Each piece of art is handmade using the same ancient techniques and materials as the originals. Ithaca’s wall art sculptures include bas-reliefs, plaques, fragments, masks and oil lamps. Museum gift shops throughout Europe fill their shelves with the quality works of Ithaca.
You will also find the Ithaca brand in stores in Venice, Paris, Rome, London and now online.

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