Venice

The Construction of Venice, the Floating City

(Read the article on one page)

Venice, Italy, is known by several names, one of which is the ‘Floating City’. This is due to the fact that the city of Venice consists of 118 small islands connected by numerous canals and bridges. Yet, the buildings in Venice were not built directly on the islands. Instead, they were built upon wooden platforms that were supported by wooden stakes driven into the ground.

The story of Venice begins in the 5 th century A.D. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, barbarians from the north were raiding Rome’s former territories. In order to escape these raids, the Venetian population on the mainland escaped to the nearby marshes, and found refuge on the sandy islands of Torcello, Iesolo and Malamocco. Although the settlements were initially temporary in nature, the Venetians gradually inhabited the islands on a permanent basis. In order to have their buildings on a solid foundation, the Venetians first drove wooden stakes into the sandy ground. Then, wooden platforms were constructed on top of these stakes. Finally, the buildings were constructed on these platforms. A 17 th century book which explains in detail the construction procedure in Venice demonstrates the amount of wood required just for the stakes. According to this book, when the Santa Maria Della Salute church was built, 1,106,657 wooden stakes, each measuring 4 metres, were driven underwater. This process took two years and two months to be completed. On top of that, the wood had to be obtained from the forests of Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro, and transported to Venice via water. Thus, one can imagine the scale of this undertaking.

Wooden Foundations of Venice

The city of Venice was built on wooden foundations.

The use of wood as a supporting structure may seem as a surprise, since wood is relatively less durable than stone or metal. The secret to the longevity of Venice’s wooden foundation is the fact that they are submerged underwater. The decay of wood is caused by microorganisms, such as fungi and bacteria. As the wooden support in Venice is submerged underwater, they are not exposed to oxygen, one of the elements needed by microorganisms to survive. In addition, the constant flow of salt water around and through the wood petrifies the wood over time, turning the wood into a hardened stone-like structure.

As a city surrounded by water, Venice had a distinct advantage over her land-based neighbours. For a start, Venice was secure from enemy invasions. For instance, Pepin, the son of Charlemagne, attempted to invade Venice, but failed as he was unable to reach the islands on which the city was built. Venice eventually became a great maritime power in the Mediterranean. For instance, in 1204, Venice allied itself with the Crusaders and succeeded in capturing the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. Nevertheless, Venice started to decline in the 15 th century, and was eventually captured by Napoleon in 1797 when he invaded Italy.

As of today, the lagoon that has protected Venice from countless foreign invaders is the biggest threat to its survival. To the local Venetians, the flooding of the city seems to be a normal phenomenon, as the water level rises about a dozen times a year. These floodings are known as aqua alta (high water), and are generally caused by unusually high tides due to strong winds, storm surges, and severe inland rains. However, this is happening more frequently in recent years due to the rising sea level caused by climate change, which is starting to alarm the city. Thus, a number of solutions have been proposed to rescue Venice from sinking. One of these measures is the Mo.S.E. ( Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico , or Experimental Electromechanical Module) Project. This involves the construction of 79 mobile floodgates which will separate the lagoon from the Adriatic when the tide exceeds one meter above the usual high-water mark. Nevertheless, some pessimistic observers doubt that such measures will be sufficient to preserve Venice forever, and that the city will eventually sink, just like the fabled city of Atlantis.

Featured image: Beautiful Water Street Venice . Photo source: BigStockPhoto

By Ḏḥwty

References

Lansing, M. F., 2012. The Story of Venice. [Online]
Available at: http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=lansing&book=patriots&story=venice

Merali, Z., 2002. Saving Venice. [Online]
Available at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/saving-venice/

Och, M., 2008. Wood. [Online]
Available at: http://venice.umwblogs.org/exhibit/the-conservation-of-venetian-building-materials/wood/

Schlamp, H.-J., 2012. Sinking Feeling: Venice's Eternal Battle against Water. [Online]
Available at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/venice-s-struggle-against-the-water-a-838713.html

Simmons, B., 2011. How Venice Italy was Built on a Foundation of Wood. [Online]
Available at: http://theapprenticeandthejourneyman.com/2011/04/17/how-venice-italy-was-built-on-a-foundation-of-wood/

Tee, P., 2011. The City on Water Understanding how Venice was Built. [Online]
Available at: http://www.humanities360.com/index.php/the-city-on-water-understanding-how-venice-was-built-15345/

Comments

The flooding becoming more common has nothing to do with climate change. The city has been slowly sinking over the past century. Slowing since the 1940s.

I like the Idea of this site

I like the Idea of this site

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Human Origins

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Ancient Technology

Detail of a star chart dating to the Middle Kingdom.
The calendar is one of mankind’s most important inventions. Calendars allowed societies to organize time for religious, social, economic, and administrative purposes. The calendar, or rather, two sets of calendars, were invented by the ancient Egyptians. One of these was a lunar calendar, which was used mainly for the organization of religious festivals.

Ancient Places

Healing Temple of Aesculapius (Asklepios) by Robert Thom
In the ancient world, many cultures built elaborate temple complexes dedicated to their healer gods - Imhotep in Egypt and Asklepios in Greece for example. These gods were recognized as having the power to cure supplicants from a variety of ailments within sleep and sacred dreams. Those who desired healing might travel many hundreds of miles to reach such a temple

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article