Renaissance literally meaning re-birth was a cultural movement that started at the end of middle Ages from 14th to 17th century. The movement started from Italy and spread into whole of the Europe. The age of renaissance is attributed to a heightened sense of toleration and reasoning in every aspect of life. Arts, craft, literature, politics, and science, all were re-shaped in the renaissance era. While the birth of renaissance is widely attributed to Florence, Venice was another city of Italy that presented an interesting but challenging outlook to a historian. Venice during the renaissance era was an oligarchy but was called Republic of Venice. With hardly any resemblance with modern day democracy, Venice enjoyed affluence and abundance due being the gateway of trade activities in Europe.
The republic also enjoyed a relatively stable political environment and trade activities thrived in the era. Glassworkers, woodworkers, artisans, and sculptures used their expertise to export their merchandise to rest of the world. There remained significant emphasis on building architecture and Venice is considered having most beautiful buildings to date. The isolated geographical position of Venice and powerful naval force allowed it the opportunity to develop in arts, culture, and civilization. It was Venice that later became printing hub of the World that helped disseminate ideas and cross-cultural toleration in the city. The city remains one of the best Gothic architecture representations in Europe. Being multi-cultural, Venice challenged the influences of Papal state. Political elites chose the leader of council called Doge. The church was effectively challenged by the Venetian life and it was here in Venice that papal decrees of excommunication and interdict were rejected. Nation state built its authority over church in Venice. Nonetheless, Venice was driven by forces of trade, religion, arts, and artisans.
During the renaissance
During the renaissance period in Venice, it was turbulent times such as war and natural calamities that underlying power and oppression of clergy men was displayed. Homosexuality, consensual sex with nuns, and prostitution were dammed for being responsible of inviting wrath of God. It was at destinations of Venice and Florence that numerous homosexuals were persecuted through the coalition of politicians and clergy men during the 15th century. Witchcraft and courtesans were being held responsible for miseries such as plague and war. One such incidental tale is depicted in "Dangerous Beauty," depiction of Veronica Franco, the sixteenth century courtesan of Venice.
The film is based on The Honest Courtesan written by Margaret Rosenthal. She was an intellectual courtesan called cortigiana onesta in Venice and had an affair with Marco, a person later to become Senate person. In the aftermath of plague of 1575, the poor Veronica Franco, played by Catherine McCormack, was forced to leave her home town due to an Inquisition for witchcraft trial initiated by the Venetian clergy men. A non-conformist by nature and true to her freedom, she contested the charges of witchcraft and was acquitted. It was Marco, as an ex-boyfriend that helped her by revealing the names of her clients that rang bells in the Venetian nobility to let her go free.
Plagues, witchcraft, and courtesans
In the renaissance era, the religious clergy as remnants of the period of history 400 A.D to 1400 A.D, referred as 'Dark Ages' (Manchester, 1-35), were still present and tried to take hold of a developing society whenever chance was presented. Establishing the cause of a disease or calamity was central to cure it and this provided the main encouragement to the Christian orthodox clergy men and poor country men to attribute plagues and other miseries to be associated with witchcraft (McGough, 219-225). The identity of witchcraft was built by the society to persecute women that did not conform to the dogmas of prevalent system of religious aristocracy and Papas. This was practiced in Venice as well as Florence, the two main cultural and economic centers of Italy of the renaissance era.
The will and talent displayed by Veronica Franco did however challenge the status quo of Venice. The state had to drop the charges leveled against her as her ex-boyfriend threatened to reveal names of all clients from religious and social aristocracy that had relationships with her. The renaissance era in which Venice and Florence were amongst the most distinguished and prosperous states, was also frequented by views of witchcraft and hierarchy of church. The views were even endorsed by humanists such as Erasmus and Thomas More (Manchester, 1-35).
The culture of Venice during the era of renaissance was still hostile to courtesans though they were granted the rights of full citizenship. Courtesans were not expected and encouraged to enter the public discourse life and it was only for Veronica Franco that effectively challenged this way of life for the social upper-class of courtesans. The renaissance era Venice was famous for large number of courtesans in the state and many historians and geographers of the Christian world travelled extensively from far off destinations to interact and observe the courtesans (Rosenthal, vii-11). The social and social concord that Venice presented during the revival age of Europe did not present courtesans as some entity as external to the culture; in fact Venice and this courtesan were part of each other. The following sections shall compare Venice and Florence during the renaissance period followed by Venice-Rome comparison.
Venice and Florence
A significant aspect to be compared in both Venice and Florence is the impact of humanism. Though, the wave of humanism reached Venice earlier than Florence, it was in the latter destination that humanism got flourished. Mussato significantly impacted the conduct of Venetian government in early 14th century. University of Padua significantly influenced the intellectual growth of Venice during the renaissance periods. The 14th century Venice was significantly less influenced by humanist movement as compared to Florence whereas particular reasons for this difference existed. Venice was much more stable in terms of political administration and trade as compared to Florence.
Florence was more receptive to the ideas of change, arts, and moralities based on humanistic values (Bouwsma, 52-57). It was not until the high renaissance period, the Mannerism phase, in which Venice attained its golden age by excelling in arts, architecture, and other forms of humanist preoccupations. Trade and commerce activity was much reinforced due to each city's encouragement towards commerce activity. Florin, the gold coin from Florence was the trusted international currency. For the same period, Venice used gold coins called ducats. Peruzzi, Bardi, and Medici were most eminent bankers of the world that belonged from Florence (Mason, 13).
It is effectively portrayed that the picture of early renaissance years where the society was engaged in extra-marital sexual relations and prostitution was deemed honorable (Manchester, 1-35). Same is depicted in 'Dangerous Beauty' in which Veronica Franco is played by Margaret Rosenthal as a socially high class prostitute. The behavior and social attitude towards sexual relationships and natural calamities was somewhat quite similar. Sodomy, the sexual relationship of two males was deemed detrimental to procreation and plagues and miseries were attributed to then widespread homosexuality, courtesans, and witchcraft. Italy was called 'mother of sodomy' in Europe and was frequently mentioned by Popes as most abominable sin of Florentines (Rocke, 3-19).
Venice and Rome
The papacy was at its peak at the start of renaissance are. Rome was the next destination of a new style of arts called the Baroque. The period is also termed as renaissance papacy. The papal state during the renaissance period represented the modern day nation states. Cardinals and popes got eloquent buildings developed in Rome. The role of popes in the renaissance papacy era got increased and they were required to mediate between colonial powers of the Europe. It was in the Kingdom of Martin V that pope ship returned to Europe and got hold in Rome. The sixteenth century was when office of Pope was in great control of politics as well as religion in Italy. Rome under the papacy of Pope Julius II aggressively expanded its territories. Nepotism is attributed to this era of renaissance in Rome. Spiritual and political renovation of the Church was also initiated under Popes. During the period of Nicholas V, Rome was re-established as modern center for arts, architecture, and development work. During the period when Rome was being beautified by Nicholas V, Rafael and Michaelangelo were provided with official commission to complete the works in Rome. Similarly, Nicholas V established the Vatican library that was to compete with the libraries of Venice and Florence.
Whereas Venice flourished under the rule of aristocrats, Rome was built under the Popes that were not hereditary but appointed Cardinal Nephews', from which the term Nepotism was coined. It was an excess of wealth, power, and oppression that catholic popes generated which led to Protestants creation in second decade of 15th century. Thus, it is evident that Florence and Venice shared many similarities whereas Venice and Rome were lead in the renaissance period by differing class of society, free-sex, witchcraft, and causes of disease…