Museo Storico Navale di Venezia

Venice, Italy | C.1919

Photo Credit: Henry Hawthorne

Guarded by two anchors and the Lion of St. Mark, this museum recalls a time when the Venetian navy was composed of more than just gondolas and vaporettos.

Though now a part of Italy, Venice once was its own republic and empire, controlling vast parts of the Mediterranean. A major player in the western world, the Venetian Republic, or “La Serenissima,” lasted for over 1000 years.

Born out of the sea, the city-state garnered a world-class navy and merchant class over the centuries, and the many models and pieces of Venetian ships displayed throughout the Venetian Naval Museum’s halls reflect that power and wealth.

Though it may look like a long piece of driftwood, the museum contains the charred flagpole of the last Venetian Bucentaur, destroyed by Napoleon’s Army during the fall of the republic. The Bucentaur, though not the monster of King Minos’s legendary Labyrinth, was a ship of mythic proportions. •
Detailed with golden statues and grand ornamentation, the ship carried the Doge, the leader of Venice, through the Grand Canal and Venetian waters during annual ceremonies. It was on this extravagant barge that the Doge would be guided out to the ocean to celebrate Venice’s “Marriage to the Sea,” giving thanks to many blessings the waves had given to the sea-faring empire.

Though its been over 200 years since a Bucentaur sailed through the powerful republic, since 2008, a local group has sought to build a replica of the fabled Bucentaur, hoping to create one the world’s largest floating museums. In a sign of the ever-changing political landscape of Europe, French trees were even donated to the project as a sign of reconciliation for the ship’s fateful destruction.

With a series of logistical hoops, flooding, and the global pandemic, the project has only just begun in May of 2021, but the city is closer than ever to having the regal barge once again grace its shores.

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