That Bloody Myth of Venice Again! Noble Blood and Sanctity in Venice
Promoting the cults of local holy men and women was a very popular form of civic aggrandisement in Italy between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. Quite simply, home-grown holy figures reflected the purity and piety of the cities which produced them, especially if they were descended from noble bloodlines. Civic registers and lists of domestic saints and their uncanonised counterparts, beati, all around the Italian peninsula, and indeed in Europe more broadly, are full of references to illustrious ‘blue-blood’ families. Likewise, in the Republic of Venice, the saintly repertoire as recorded by sixteenth to eighteenth-century hagiographers (writers of saints’ lives) exaggerates its inclusion of noble bloodlines in order to amplify the city’s self-professed identity as God’s favoured and most holy locale and to emphasise the role of the elite patrician class in achieving this rank. The paper analyses how Venetian hagiographers constructed a distinctive kind of holy figure for Venice which both reflected the city’s shifting external political concerns and conformed to its enduring Republican principles. When the Venetian identity needed bolstering, the saintly repertoire could easily be injected with noble and sanctified blood to underscore the primary contribution of the Venetian patrician class to the all-important civic identity.
McCluskey, K. (2012). That bloody myth of Venice again! Noble blood and sanctity in Venice. In S. Boccalatte & M. Jones (eds.). Trunk Volume Two: Blood. Boccalatte: Sydney, NSW.