Campaign for A Living Venice Presents: News of the Past
This will be an occasional feature, with tidbits from the annals of La Serenissima and all that it has to teach us today.
1409 – The Venetian Republic, after plagues and wars had caused the population in the city to drop, adopted a law allowing the privilege of Venetian citizenship to foreigners who had married Venetian wives. Their reasoning is explained in this preamble:
“As one of the things that those who rule and govern the city always watch and must always watch was and is to populate and repopulate it with men, and as cities are more rich and powerful when there are many citizens, this is something which is necessary in any city and in ours, which is greatly diminished by many past diseases and wars…”*
Over 600 years ago those who ruled Venice understood the great importance of citizens, and continually adjusted policy to maintain a necessary and healthy population level (and continued to do so until the end of the Republic). It was not generally easy to earn citizenship, though – in fact eligibility for citizenship was mainly determined by how long one had lived in the city (at least 15 years was the norm for acceptance). This is a stark contrast with today; now the Mayor celebrates pictures of Venice choked with day visitors, who arrive in the morning and are gone by night, as a sign that Venice is not dying.
*This excerpt was taken from “Venezia città aperta” by Andrea Zannini