Vita Gazette

News from Italy

Why is Venice called the Serenissima?

by Isabella Laiden

Venice is known as “La Serenissima” thanks to its full epithet, “La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia.” This honorific title underlines Venice’s long history as one of the Mediterranean’s most powerful and influential maritime republics.

The term “serenissima” derives from the Latin “serenissimus,” which means “very serene” or “the most serene.” Have you heard people refer to Venice as “la Serenissima”? Certainly many. This name was given to Venice in the past but is still used today to describe the city that floats on the water. But why was Venice called “Serenissima”?

There are several explanations. One is linked to the figure of the doge who governed the city during the Republic of Venice. From the Middle Ages, Venice was endowed with particular political autonomy and began to enjoy great prosperity due to its maritime activities. Therefore, The city was classified as a Maritime Republic, along with Amalfi, Genoa and Pisa. Venice’s substantial autonomy was well organised around several institutions led by the Doge, the city’s highest political figure. Its functions, however, were limited to managing wars and the merchant fleet. In contrast, the rest of the functions remained in the hands of the Maggior Consiglio, the main political body of the city. The nickname La Serenissima seems to have spread to designate the city around the figure of the Doge. It appears that the city’s inhabitants defined the Doge as most serene and that this definition was then broadened to define the entire city. The Doge was the head of state and government whose office was born in 697 and lasted until the fall of the Republic on 12 May 1797. He was said to be “most serene” by everyone. Consequently, the city he governed, Venice, was defined as “Serenissima”, just like him.

According to another theory, however, what gave Venice the nickname “Serenissima” was the fact that the Venetian Republic was a great power of the seas, always at the forefront from a nautical but also political point of view, which reigned supreme and in which we lived in total economic and social stability. During its heyday, which ran from the 9th to the 18th century, the Republic of Venice was a significant financial and political centre. It dominated maritime trade and had a powerful naval fleet. The Serenissima was known for its political stability, wealth and relatively peaceful government, compared to other city-states of the time. Precisely for this reason and for the wealth it had, living in Venice meant living in total serenity. Thus, Venice became the “most serene” city.

Another school of thought evaluates the climate that could be felt in the lagoon city during its golden years.

We must imagine Venice during its most prosperous years: a highly developed trade that reached the East of the world, unique nautical skills, perfect organisation and an extremely flourishing economy, therefore capable of giving much-needed prosperity to its inhabitants.

In this context, a particular feeling of tolerance developed in the city, especially towards foreigners. Foreigners who came to Venice for reasons related to its economy were welcomed with specific warmth.

Ci sono poi alcune altre theoreticale che potrebbero spiegare la nascita di questo nome.

Venezia infatti dipese dai reggenti formalmente sino al 1453, anno ilante il quale Bisanzio è definitivamente caduta, lasciando però il nomignolo in eredità alla città.

La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia ha lasciato un’eredità duratura nella storia, nell’arte e nell’architettura. Venezia è rinomata per i suoi palazzi gotici, le chiese, i canali romantici e la sua posizione unica nella laguna. L’epiteto “La Serenissima” rimane un simbolo di prestigio e grandezza per la città e richiama l’immagine di un’epoca d’oro di potenza e splendore.

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