Book Detail

Publisher: Sassi Editore

Format: hardcover

ISBN: 978-88-6860-103-4


A City Built on the Impossible

Venetia Città Nobilissima et Singolare (Venice, a Very Noble and Singular City) was the title Francesco Sansovino chose in 1581 for what was touted as the first “modern” guide to the city of Venice. The city was considered nobilissima because, according to Titus Livius, Cornelius Nepos and Strabo, its founders descended from the Henites, who arrived in Italy from Asia Minor with the Trojan Antenor and became citizens and then senators of the Roman republic. It was singolare, he said, because, while many cities are beautiful with rich and great buildings, Venice, “situated in the middle of waters cannot be compared to any other place on earth.” A city “grounded without foundation. Not the work of human hand, but divine. Strong without force. Beginning with no beginning; end without end,” as Domenico Martinelli described it in 1682 in the first edition of his Portrait of Venice, another guide to the city. Commenting on the wisdom to be gained from visits to Venetian churches, true shrines to the nation’s glory, he wrote, “Contemplating the decoration of the paintings and sculptures, the magnificence of the tombs and mausoleums, the multitude of saints’ bodies and relics … you can at the same time experience wonder, curiosity and devotion. From there …, seeing among the moving marble sculptures that almost bring our ancestors back to life, you will learn to mimic their heroic actions; or, considering the past glories and greatness buried under these stones, you will learn to mourn human transience.”