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The Wedding with the Sea

Venice. Bride of the Sea.

The Festa della Sensa, is one of the city's best known festivals that bring to life its thousand year history and its close ties to the sea and the art of "Voga alla Veneta" rowing. The Sensa (Ascension Day) Festival was celebrated by the Venetian Republic on the day of Christ's Ascension.

It began in the year 1000, when the naval fleet of the Serenissima - the Venetian Empire - departed on Ascension Day to attack Dalmatian pirates who were threatening the Istrian coast. The Venetian navy´s famous victory over the Slavic pirates was the beginning of the rapid expansion of the Serenissima´s political, commercial and military influence on the Adriatic Sea.

The celebration of the Sensa began as a procession of the the Doge upon the Dukal Galley (that lately became the famous Bucintoro), would be followed by a fleet of boats to the entrance of the port at the Lido, where the Bishop of Olivolo (Castello) blessed the waters of the Sea in peace and gratitude.

The religious incentive to get God´s forgiveness brought every year more crowds of pilgrims to the lagoon for the celebration of the Marriage to the Sea.

June 8, 1895, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

Humiliation of the Proud Oligarchy by Bonaparte.
The French Conqueror Declared the Inhabitants a Miserable. Cowardly People', Unfit for Liberty.

Bellotto's Grand Canal. Mark Doty. Getty Trust Publications.

Since the days of Carthage no Government like that of the Venetian oligarchy had existed on the earth. At its best it was dark and remorseless; with the disappearance of its vigor its despotism had become somewhat milder, but even yet no common man might draw the veil from its mysterious, irresponsible councils and live. A few hundred families administered the country as they did their private estates. All intelligence, all liberty, all personal independence, were repressed by such a system. The more enlightened from the mainland, many even in the city, had felt the influences of the time, and had long been uneasy under their Government, however smoothly it seemed to be running.

Now that the earth was quaking under the march of Bonaparte's troops, that Government was not only helpless, but it actually grew contemptible in its panic. There was indeed the most urgent necessity for a change. The Senate had a powerful fleet, 3.000 native troops, and 11,000 mercenaries; but they struck only a futile blow on their own account, permitting a rash Captain to open fire from the gun boats against the French vanguard when it appeared. But immediately, as if in fear of their own temerity, they dispatched an embassy to learn the will of the approaching General. That his dealings might be merciful, they tried the plan of Modena, and offered Bonaparte a bribe of 7,000,000 francs; but, as in the case of Modena, he refused. Next day, the General Council having been summoned, it was determined by a nearly unanimous vote of the patricians (690 to 21) that they would remodel their institutions on democratic lines. The pale and terrified Doge thought such surrender to be the last hope of their safety.

Not for a moment did Lallemont and Villetard, the two French agents, intermit their revolutionary agitation in the town. Disorders grew more frequent, and uncertainty both paralyzed and disintegrated the patrician party. A week, later the Government virtually abdicated. Two utter strangers appeared in a theatrical way at its doors, and suggested in writing to the Great Council that to appease the spirit of the times they should plant the liberty tree on the Place of St. Mark, and speedily accede to all the propositions for liberalizing Venice which the popular temper seemed to demand. Such were the terror and disorganization of the aristocracy that instead of punishing the intrusion by death, according to the traditions of their merciless procedure, they took measures to carry out the suggestion. The fleet was dismantled and the army disbanded.

By the end of the month the revolution was virtually accomplished, for a rising of their supporters having been mistaken by the Great Council, in its pusillanimous terror, for a rebellion of their antagonists, they decreed the abolition of all existing institutions, and, after hastily organizing a provisional Government, disbanded. Four thousand French soldiers occupied the town, and an ostensible treaty was made between the new Republic of Venice and that of France.

This treaty was really nothing but a pronunciamento of Bonaparte. He decreed a general amnesty to all offenders except the commanders of Fort Luco, who had recently fired on the French vessel, he also guaranteed the public debt, and promised to occupy the city only as long as the public order required it. By a series of secret articles Venice was to accept the stipulations of Leoben in regard to territory, pay an indemnity of 6,000,000 Francs, and furnish three ships of the line and two frigates, while, in pursuance of the general policy of the French Republic, experts were to select twenty pictures from her galleries, and 500 manuscripts from her libraries.

Italy. 1898. Bartholomew, Cartographer.

Italy. 1898. Bartholomew.

Whatever was the understanding of those who signed these crushing conditions, the city was never again treated by any European power as an independent State. Soon afterwards a French expedition was dispatched to occupy her island possessions in the Levant. The arrangements had been carefully prepared during the very time when the provisional Government believed itself to be paying the price of its new liberties. And earlier still — on May 27th, three days before the abdication of the aristocracy — Bonaparte had already offered to Austria the entire republic in its proposed form as an exchange for the German lands on the left bank of the Rhine.

Writing to the Directory on that day, he declared that Venice, which had been in a decline over since "the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope and the rise of Trieste and Ancona, can with difficulty survive the blows we have just given her. This miserable cowardly people, unfit for liberty, and without land or water — it seems natural to me that we should hand them over to those who have received their mainland from us. We shall take all their ships, we shall despoil their arsenal, we shall remove all their cannon, we shall wreck their bank, we shall keep Corfu and Ancona for ourselves."

On the 26th a letter to his "friends" of the Venetian Provisional Government had assured them that he would do all in his power to confirm their liberties, and he earnestly desired that Italy, "now covered with glory and free from every foreign influence, should again appear on the world's stage, and assert among the great powers that station to which by nature, position and destiny it was entitled."

Ordinary minds cannot grasp the guile and daring which seem to have prearranged and foreseen all the conditions necessary to plans which for double-dealing transcended the conceptions of men even in that age of duplicity and selfishness. — Professor W. M. Sloane's Life of Napoleon in the Century.

February 19, 1888, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California


Written for the Herald.

Venice Canals. 1600s.

Venice was founded in the beginning of the fifth century. In 697 a Doge, or Duke, was chosen, who was really, the President of the Republic; and in 819 the present site of Venice became a capital. The city is built on 117 islands in the lagoon, with 2194 canals, which pass under 378 stone bridges. It has large lace and glass factories. The Venetian lace factory of M. Jesurum & Cie employs 2500 women, who are paid twelve cents each a day; these women do not live in the city, but principally on the island of Pallestrina, where living is much cheaper than in town.

Piazza de San Marco.

The Piazza di San Marco leads down the sea, surrounded by the Palace Arcades, St. Mark's Cathedral, and marble palaces, and is the center of Venetian life, especially in the evening when the bands play and the cafes are crowded with people. For the last seven hundred years flocks of pigeons have been fed here by the city at 2 p.m. daily. It is believed by the credulous that the pigeons are in some way connected with the prosperity of the city.


s built in the form of a Greek cross. It has five gilded domes and more than five hundred marble columns and 46,000 square feet of mosaics, of which the entire ceiling is made. Back of the altar are four spiral alabaster columns, two of which were brought from Solomon's Temple. This church stands on wooden piles, and has settled considerably in the last few years, causing the flooring and coiling to crack in many places.

Pictures from Italy. Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens, in his "Pictures from Italy," says: "Going down upon the margin of the green sea, rolling on before the door and filling all the streets, I came upon a place of such surpassing beauty, and such grandeur, that all the rest was poor and faded in comparison with its absorbing loveliness. It was a great piazza, as I thought, anchored like all the rest, in the deep ocean. On its broad bosom was a palace more majestic and magnificent in its old age than all the buildings of the earth, in the high prime and fullness of their youth ; cloisters and galleries so light that they might have been the work of fairy hands— so strong that centuries have battered them in vain." This is the palace of the Doges. The front walls are entirely of white and red marble.


Lord Byron. Major Works, including Childe Harold.

One of the most celebrated in the world, and made so by Byron's "Childe Harold," leads from the Doges' Palace to the prison. It is rather singular that the two most celebrated bridges in Venice should have been built by the same architect—the Rialto and the Bridge of Sighs. Rialto and Venice are synonymous terms, and the name of the oldest part of the city.

In the Eighth and Ninth centuries the traders of Venice were called Merchants of Rialto, The bridge is covered with shops and spans the Grand Canal with a single arch of Istrian marble. In the Friars' Church are the tombs of Titian and Canova, the former a celebrated painter and the latter known as the Prince of Modern Sculptors. Tradition says that Othello lived here with Desdemona, and out of respect for the Venetian nobility he is represented on the stage and in history as a Moorish gentleman. The house in which they lived is still standing and may be visited by sight-seers. The city is divided into two almost equal parts by the Grand Canal, which is two miles long, and from 150 to 180 feet wide. t is one of the finest streets in the world and has palaces on either side. Rogers says of them:

"There is a glorious city in the sea.
The sea is in the broad and narrow streets,
Ebbing and flowing; and the salt, seaweed
Clings to the marble of her palaces.

"No track of man, no footsteps to and fro
Lead to her gates. The path lies o'er the sea

Invincible; and from the land we went
As to a floating city."


In olden times gondolas were not uniform in size and color, as they are now; the gondoliers were dressed to suit their masters, as the coachman of to-day. But the wealthy people spent so much on decoration and livery that the city had to put a stop to it, so now all gondolas are of one size and painted black, the gondoliers wearing (in summer) white pants, blue blouse and straw hat. These gondolas hold from four to six persons, and on a moonlight night there is nothing more delightful than gondoliering on the Grand canal.

Venice. Manet.

It is one of the traditions that it is always moonlight in Venice, as tourists all claim to have been there when the moon was full. Nearly all the gondoliers have fine rich voices, and entertain their patrons when out on the Lagoons with their soft, sweet Italian love songs. One of their favorite songs is "Oye Caroli," which impressed me so much that while In Rome I bought a copy to bring home with me. The island of Lido is one of the gayest and most, charming watering places in Italy. It was on this island that Lord Byron wished to be buried. The ceremony of wedding the Adriatic was performed every year on Ascension Day, and continued until the fall of the Republic. The Adriatic must have been married over 700 times; it is strange that, as a gold ring was thrown into the sea every year', not one has ever been found. A poet writing on this subject, says that the sea, though fickle as a woman, will never part with her husband's gifts.

Georgie Truman.

Irresistible North: From Venice to Greenland on the Trail of the Zen Brothers

Irrsistible North. Andrea De Robilant. Irresistible North. Andrea De Robilant.

Andrea De Robiland
An odyssey in the path of the mysterious Zen brothers, who explored parts of the New World a century before Columbus, and became both a source of scandal and a cause célèbre among geographers in the following centuries.

The Zeno brothers, Nicolò (c. 1326–c. 1402) and Antonio Zeno (died c. 1403), were Italian noblemen from Venice, living in the second half of the 14th century. They were brothers of the Venetian naval hero Carlo Zeno. The Zeno family was an established part of the aristocracy of Venice and held the franchise for transportation between Venice and the Holy Land during the Crusades. Zeno is the Italianization of the Venetian surname Zen.

Nicolò and Antonio are notable for a number of letters and map (called the Zeno map) published in the year 1558 by one of their descendants, also named Nicolò Zeno. This descendant was a historian with other published works on the history of Venice.

This journey begins with historian and journalist Andrea di Robilant’s serendipitous discovery of a travel narrative published in Venice in 1558 by the Renaissance statesman Nicolò Zen: the text and its fascinating nautical map re-created the travels of two of the author’s ancestors, brothers who explored the North Atlantic in the 1380s and 1390s. Di Robilant set out to discover why later, in the nineteenth century, the Zens’ account came under attack as one of the greatest frauds in geographical history. Was their map—and even their journey—partially or perhaps entirely faked?

In Irresistible North the author follows the Zens’ route from the Faeroes to Shetland to Iceland and Greenland, greeted by characters who help unravel the enigmas in the Zens’ account. The medieval world comes to life as di Robilant guides us through a landscape enlivened by the ghosts of power-hungry earls and bishops of the old Norwegian realm and magical tales of hot springs and smoking mountains. In this telling—an original work of history and a travel book in one—the magnetism of the north draws us in as powerfully as it drew the Zen brothers more than six centuries ago.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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