A survay of the signorie of Venice, of her admired policy, and method of government, &c. with a cohortation to all Christian princes to resent her dangerous condition at present
Howell, James, 1594?-1666.

Some Observations of the Citty and Signorie of Venice, taken out of Sansovino.

THe Air of Venice is exceeding good, because it is continually purgd with the flux and reflux of the Adriatic Sea, which carry away with it every six howers whatsoever is corrupt and noy∣som, besides the multitude of fires dissolveth all unwholsom vapors, and the free scope of the winds blowing every where without impedi∣ment maketh the Air more sound, and vigorous; besides much is at∣tributed to the saltnes which being by its nature more hot and lesse cold engendreth an equall and most sweet temperature, so that strangers with great amazement do not any where behold men more venerable, of greter age, fuller of flesh, streight bodied, of goodly presence, and more vigorous constitution; but above all other things this is most strange, that this Air by a speciall priviledg of Nature doth agree with the complexions of all commers that resort thither of what Nation, or under what climat soever they be born, whether the same be subtill and penetrating, or thick and foggie.

Page  187Round about ther is such an innumerable quantity of all excellent sorts of Fish, that not only the Inhabitants have plenty of Fish taken twice evry day, but they allso furnish the adjoyning Citties upon the Continent, as well those that are under their Dominion as others; The like marvailous abundance they have of wildfoull, so different in kind, and divers in colour, that tis strange to see their various sorts, their variety being such that we have seen 200 severall kinds of them painted most exactly in their naturall hue by Marino Malipiero, the most exquisit and ingenious man of his time in that Art.

This Citty above all other is worthy to be admired, as being singu∣lar by Her self, and brooking no comparison with any other; For what other Citty soever hath bin either plesant by situation, or glorious in goodlines of buildings, yet it had som kind of resemblance with others; but only this being seated in the midst of the waters hath not any thing upon Earth to which it may be resembled, the rare position whereof being such, that it injoyeth the comodities of the waters, and the ple∣sures of the Land, secure by being among the waves from Land assaults, and free by not being founded in the depths of the Sea from Maritim violences; So that whereas other Citties do keep and defend their Cit∣tizens with Walls, Towers, and Gates, This being naked and without Ramparts, is not only secure Her-self, but rendereth allso with ad∣mirable prudence such Citties secure as do sleep under Her wings. Among many other rare Edifices sumptuous as well in the richnes of the matter, as marvailous for the most singular curiosity of workmanship the Steeple of S. Mark is most miraculous, the same being so huge high and stately, that in faire wether it is seen and discernd by those that sayl from Istria 100 miles off; the speciall care and oversight wherof is comitted allwayes to a person of speciall quality, who hath for his al∣lowance 150. Crowns yeerly stipend.

VVE will now descend to som particular customes of this Mayden Citty as her maner of marying, and of the fruits therof Her Christnings. Mariages among the Nobility ar for the most part al∣wayes treted of by a third person, the Bride being never suffer'd as much as to see her future Husband, nor He Her, untill the mariage dower, and all things therunto appertaining, be fully agreed upon and concluded, which being don, the next morning the Bridegrome goeth to the Court of the Palace, and there the match being publish'd he receaveth well-wishing speeches, and salutations from such of the No∣bility as doe enter into the Pallace, and withall inviteth his frends to the house of the Brides Father, to be there at a certain time appointed in the afternoon; At the entry of the dore they are attended by the Bridegroom and his kinred, and brought up to a Hall wher ther are none but men only, and there the Bride is brought forth apparrell'd by an ancient custom all in white, her haires dischevell'd, and hanging about her sholdiers woven in and out with filletts of Gold; where being betroth'd with many solemn Ceremonies, She is led about the Hall with Flutes, Drums and other instruments, still dancing in a soft me∣sure, Page  188 then She boweth down to those that salute Her; Having so shew'd Her-self She goeth in & returneth out again, If any men friends do chance to com that had not seen Her before, She comes out and presents Her∣self, then She entreth to a Gondola, and being attended by divers other She goeth up and down to the Nunneries, specially to those where any of Her Kinred are reclusd; Now this shewing of Her▪ self abroad is to no other end, but in regard of Her Children and sundry other things, it may after happen She may make Her Nuptialls apparant to all: At evry Wedding ther is a Gentleman or two calld Compari, that are as it were Masters of the Revells, because their charge is to see unto the Musik, and whatsoever other shewes or pastimes appertain to the Feast, the next Morning their Friends and Kinred present the new Married couple with sundry sorts of Restoratives and sweet Meates.

THe Christnings in Venice are somewhat diffring from other places, for the Father inviteth not two God-fathers and a God-mother, or two God-mothers and a God-father, but as many as they list, inso∣much that somtimes ther have bin above 150 at a Christning, but to the end that this Goshipship shold no way be a bar or impediment among the Gentlewomen in matter of Mariage, it was by a Law ordained, that one Gentleman shold not take another Gentleman for his Goship, whence it cometh that when the Priest powreth the Water on the Childs Head, he first maketh mention of the Law, and then de∣mandeth if ther be among the Goships any one of the Venetian Nobility. Nor are ther any Women admitted to the Christning but only the Nurse, who hath the charge of the Child; The next day the Father sends to evry Goship a Marchpane, and evry of them sendeth back som present or other to the Child according to the custom of the Citty; Their greatest magnificence and charge, is at the nativity of the Child, for then they wonderfully exceed not only in the sumptuousnes of their Banquetts, but also in rich furniture, and adorning of their houses.

Likewise ther is no place on Earth wher the Funerall of the meanest Cittizen is solemnizd with greater Ceremony and Expence; nor is ther any Countrey wher strangers find better entertainment, and live in grea∣ter security.

The Plesures, Recreations and Pastimes of the Gentlemen are of di∣vers kinds, among the rest they take great delight in Fowling making great matches who can kill most Fowle in a day, turning still the end therof to banqueting and plesure. They have Boats of purpose calld Fisolari so nam'd from Fisolo, which is the name of the Bird they seek after; In evry of these Boates they have six or eight servants appar∣rell'd in blewish, or greenish garments, suited as nere as they can to the colour of the Water, These row the Boat up and down, turning her suddenly to evry side as they are commanded by their Masters, who sits close with his Peece or Bow wholy intentive upon his sport; If he chance to misse when he shooteth, the Fisolo divers under water, and where he riseth again thither they turn their Boats with much nimble∣nes; Page  189 Divers Boates use to goe to this pastime, which is very chargeable to the Gentlemen; Upon their return they hang the Fowle they have killd out of the Window, as Hunters do upon their Dores the heads of Beares, Bores, Hares, taking it as a great reputation to kill more of these in a day than their fellowes can.

The Dukes of Venice have by ancient priviledges confirmd by sundry Emperours, authority to create Erles and Knights, and likewise Poetts Laureat, with either of which dignities the Prince of Venice doth use to honor and reward persons of merit and virtu.

The Dukes have oftentimes matchd in the greatest and royallest Houses of Christendom, which alliances with forren Princes growing suspected to the Commonwealth, ther was a Law made in the yeer 1327. that the Duke might not marry the Daughter of any Stranger, though by priviledg and adoption he had obtaind the right and title of a Vene∣tian Gentleman; And in the yeer 1383. it was ordaind that he shold not marry the Daughter, Sister or Kinswoman of any forren Prince, without the licence and consent of the great Councell.

The Dukes of Venice were wont in times passd to honor themselfs with high and Princely titles, as calling themselfs Dukes of Venice, Dal∣matia and Croatia, Lords of a half part, and a quarter of the whole Roman Empire, &c. which vanity of titles was taken away in the yeer 1360. and utterly prohibited, and this title only allowd, I. D. By the grace of God Duke of Venice, &c. The common coin is stampd with the inscription of the Dukes name then in being, but it is against the Law that any Duke shold ingrave, imborder or paint his peculiar Coat of Armes in any En∣signes, Banners, Gallies, Seats of Justice, or public places of honor, but only within the Precincts of the Palace. Yet is He buried with all the Princely magnificence that may be: Being dead, His Bowells are taken out, and His Body embalmd, after which He is kept divers daies openly in the Hall attended by the Senators (as sayed before) His Herse being coverd over with a large Cloth of rich Gold, and his Sword and Spurres lying athwart of the Herse; He is wayted on to His Grave by all the Fra∣ternities of the Cittie, and the Churchmen with an innumerable company of Torches; Next follow the Officers and chief Servants of the Dukes Familie all apparrelld in black, with Hoods ore their heads, and a long train; Next them com the Senators all in Scarlett and grain, signifying the Cittie of Venice to be ever free, therfore ought not to mourn at the death of any Prince how virtuous soever: With this pomp they passe to Saint Marks Place, where the Beer is lifted up on high nine times that evry one might take his perpetuall farewell of Him; Then is He carried to the Church, and a solemn Funerall Oration is made for Him; then the Senators return to the Palace, and presently proceed to the Election of a new Duke, which they cannot do by the ancient constitution till the other be first under ground; and so Corruptio unius, est generatio al∣terius.