Featured in RB Explore Photography Page August – 06 – 2013
Views 1654 at February – 23 – 2014
International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration or Cultural Property
Shutter Speed 1/500 sec
Focal Lenght 24mm
Lens Nikon 12 – 24
Camera Nikon D300
HDR processed in Photomatix Pro 4.0.1 from a single RAW image, then processed using CS4 – no tripod used
The Grand Canal (Italian: Canal Grande, Venetian: Canałasso) is a canal in Venice, Italy. It forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city. Public transport is provided by water buses (Italian: vaporetti) and private water taxis, and many tourists explore the canal by gondola.At one end the canal leads into the lagoon near Santa Lucia railway station and the other end leads into Saint Mark Basin: in between it makes a large S-shape through the central districts (sestieri) of Venice. It is 3,800 m long, 30–90 m wide, with an average depth of five meters (16.5 ft).
The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which date to 13th to the 18th century and demonstrate the welfare and art created by the Republic of Venice. The noble venetian families faced huge expenses to show off their richness in suitable palazzos: this contest reveals the citizens’ pride and the deep bond with the lagoon. Amongst the many are the Palazzi Barbaro, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ d’Oro, Palazzo Dario, Ca’ Foscari, Palazzo Barbarigo and to Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, housing the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The churches along the canal include the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. Centuries-old traditions such as the Historical Regatta are perpetuated every year along the Canal.Because most of the city’s traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it, only one bridge crossed the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge. There are currently two more bridges, the Ponte degli Scalzi and the Ponte dell’Accademia. A fourth, controversial bridge (Ponte della Costituzione) designed by Santiago Calatrava was recently erected, connecting the train station to the vehicle-open area of Piazzale Roma. As was usual in the past, people can still take a ferry ride across the canal at several points by standing up on the deck of a simple gondola called traghetto.Most of the palaces emerge from water without pavement. Consequently, one can only tour past the fronts of the buildings on the grand canal by boat.
The first settlements
The Grand Canal probably follows the course of an ancient river (possibly a branch of the Brenta) flowing into the lagoon. Adriatic Veneti groups already lived beside the formerly-named “Rio Businiacus” before the Roman age. They lived in stilt houses and on fishing and commerce (mainly salt). Under the rule of the Roman empire and later of the Byzantine empire the lagoon became populated and important, and in the early 9th century the doge moved his seat from Malamocco to the safer Rivoaltus.Increasing trade followed the doge and found in the deep Grand Canal a safe and ship accessible canal-port. Drainage reveals that the city became more compact over time: at that time the Canal was wider and flowed between small, tide-subjected islands connected by wooden bridges.
The Venetian-Byzantine style
From the Byzantine empire goods arrived together with sculptures, friezes, columns and capitals to decorate the fondaco houses of patrician families. The Byzantine art merged with previous elements resulting in a Venetian-Byzantine style; in architecture it was characterized by large loggias with round or elongated arches and by polychrome marbles abundance.Along the Grand Canal these elements are well preserved in Ca’ Farsetti, Ca’ Loredan (both municipal seats) and Ca’ da Mosto, all dating back to the 12th or 13th century. During this period Rialto had an intense building development, determining the conformation of the Canal and surrounding areas. As a matter of fact, in Venice building materials are precious and foundations are usually kept: in the subsequent restorations, existing elements will be used again, mixing the Venetian-Byzantine and the new styles (Ca’ Sagredo, Palazzo Bembo). Polychromy, three-partitioned façades, loggias, diffuse openings and rooms disposition formed a particular architectural taste that continued in the future.The Fourth Crusade, with the loot obtained from the sack of Constantinople (1204), and other historical situations, gave Venice an Eastern influence until the late 14th century.
Venetian Gothic architecture found favor quite late, as a splendid flamboyant Gothic (“gotico fiorito”) beginning with the southern façade of the Doge’s Palace. The verticality and the illumination characterizing the Gothic style are found in the porticos and loggias of fondaco houses: columns get thinner, elongated arches are replaced by pointed or ogee or lobed ones. Porticos rise gently intertwining and drawing open marbles in quatrefoils or similar figures. Façades were plastered in brilliant colors.The open marble fascias, often referred as “laces”, quickly diffused along the Grand Canal. Among the 15th century palaces still showing the original appearance are Ca’ d’Oro, Palazzo Bernardo, Ca’ Foscari (now housing the University of Venice), Palazzo Pisani Moretta, Palazzi Barbaro, Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti.
By the start of the 15th century Renaissance architecture motifs appear in such buildings as the Palazzo Dario and the Palazzo Corner Spinelli; the latter was designed by Mauro Codussi, pioneer of this style in Venice. Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, another of his projects (now hosting the Casino), reveals a completed transition: the numerous and large windows with open marbles are round-arched and have columns in the three classical orders.
Classical architecture is more evident in Jacopo Sansovino’s projects, who arrived from Rome in 1527. Along the Canal he designed Palazzo Corner and Palazzo Dolfin Manin, known for grandiosity, for the horizontal layout of the white façades and for the development around a central courtyard. Other Renaissance buildings are Palazzo Papadopoli and Palazzo Grimani di San Luca. Several palaces of this period had façades with frescoes by painters such as Il Pordenone, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, all of them unfortunately lost.
In 1582 Alessandro Vittoria began the construction of Palazzo Balbi (now housing the Government of Veneto), in which Baroque elements can be recognized: fashioned cornices, broken pediments, ornamental motifs.
The major Baroque architect in Venice was Baldassarre Longhena. In 1631 he began to build the magnificent Santa Maria della Salute basilica, one of the most beautiful churches in Venice and a symbol of Grand Canal . The classical layout of the façade features decorations and by many statues, the latter crowning also the refined volutes surrounding the major dome.Longhena later designed two majestic palaces like Ca’ Pesaro and Ca’ Rezzonico (with many carvings and chiaroscuro effects) and Santa Maria di Nazareth church (Chiesa degli Scalzi). For various reasons the great architect did not see any of these buildings finished, and they were all modified after his death but the Salute.Longhena’s themes recur in the two older façades of Palazzo Labia, containing a famous fresco cycle by Giambattista Tiepolo. In the Longhenian school grew Domenico Rossi (San Stae’s façade, Ca’ Corner della Regina) and Giorgio Massari, who later completed Ca’ Rezzonico.The 16th and 17th centuries mark the beginning of the Republic’s decline, but nevertheless they saw the highest building activity on the Grand Canal. This can be partially explained by the increasing number of families (like the Labia) becoming patrician by the payment of an enormous sum to the Republic, in financial difficulties. Once gained this status, these families provided themselves of adequate residences on the Canal, often inducing other families to renew theirs.
After the fall of the Republic 1797, construction of housing in Venice was suspended, as symbolized by the unfinished San Marcuola and Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (housing the Peggy Guggenheim Collection). Patrician families lost their desire of self-exaltation and many of them died out. Several historical palaces were pulled down, but most of them survived and good restorations have saved their 18th century appearance. The most important are publicly owned and host institutions and museums.Religious buildings underwent the consequences of religious orders suppression decreed by Napoleon in the Kingdom of Italy period. Many churches and monasteries were deprived of furnishings and works of art, changed their function (like Santa Maria della Carità complex, now housing the Gallerie dell’Accademia) or were demolished. The Santa Croce complex naming a sestiere was situated in Papadopoli Gardens area; Santa Lucia complex (partially designed by Palladio) was razed to the ground to build Santa Lucia Station.The Kingdom of Italy accession restored serenity in the city and stimulated construction along the Grand Canal respecting its beauty, often reproduced in Gothic Revival architectures like the Pescaria at Rialto.