Italian Navy Museum of Naval History (Museo storico navale è un museo della città), A precious place with a collection from centuries of Naval History, with boats and artefacts that retrace history and traditions. The Naval History Museum is a museum of the city of Venice, owned by the Italian Navy, located at the arsenal. The museum collects historical testimonies about navigation and, in particular, Italian seagoing history and Venetian marineria.
A place with a vast historical memory, filled with triumphs and glories from the era of the Most Serene Republic. A place whose naval construction secrets were admired by the whole world.
The Museum began in the complex where the arsenal is located in 1919. Later, in 1964, it was transferred to the adjacent 15th-century building in Campo San Biagio. This historic site formerly housed the granaries of the Republic. The exhibition area extends across five floors, covering an overall area of 4,000 square metres, with a total of 42 rooms. It houses paintings, sculptures, fleet models and naval vessels.
The Museum is divided into two main areas, one adjacent to the other. The main entrance with the two anchors and the Ship Pavilion in the background. A prestigious location and an ancient site used for boatbuilding.
The main building collects artistic and historical memorabilia linked to the history of the Italian navy distributed in 42 exhibition halls on a total of five floors.
Also part of the museum is the “pavilion of the ships” in the old workshop of the arsenal of the arsenal and the church of San Biagio, an ancient place of worship of Venetian and then Austrian navy, finally used for the religious functions of the Navy personnel.
Ground floor, first and second floors:
Outside, near the building at the entrance, since 1961, there are two anchors of two Austro-Hungarian armor of the First World War, one of the SMS Viribus Unitis and the other of SMS Tegetthoff, whose twins are placed at the entrance to Palazzo Marina in Rome. The first three levels are dedicated to the companies, equipment and characters of the Marina of Venice and the Italian Navy, with some testimonies of the other maritime republics on the second floor. Along the second level, there is a room dedicated to the Bucintoro, the ancient doge ceremony.
Here are featured models of boats of the lagoon of Venice, fishing boats and various gondolas, including that donated by Peggy Guggenheim to the museum after his death.
Other models of oriental ships and various hangars are housed in a further hall.
The fourth floor, also called “Swedish Hall”, is dedicated to the links between Venice and Sweden and between the Italian and Swedish navy, showing the help our industries have led to the formation of the navy and aviation of the Scandinavian country .
In a small hall that is accessed via a staircase, a rich collection of shells was donated by Roberta di Camerino.
Open to the public only on special occasions, in the pavilion are exhibited authentic Venetian and military ships and a part of the machine room of the Elf panfilo. There is preserved the bell of R. Colonial Eritrean.
“The Model House”
This was the place that housed the collection of the various models of ships, which were used instead of design drawings at the time: models were built to scale as the basis for the construction of life-sized vessels. The models are said to be incomplete, as they survived a great fire.
Frame of a stern –
Skilled craftsmen created the scale models, which were then delivered to the master shipwrights for construction of the life-sized vessels.
Model of an 18th-century Venetian FRIGATE.
A ship for close reconnaissance.
The models were made with extreme care and attention to detail.
A war galley with 24 benches of rowers and two rowers per bench, with their own oars. 16th Century
Model of a 16th-century Venetian TRIREME.
Known as a “Galea Sottile”. This 1881 model is the result of studies by Admiral Luigi Fincati.
The studies of Admiral Fincati led to a different conclusion than those of Admiral Jurien De La Graviere, who had ruled out the possibility of galleys having three men and oars per bench.
Admiral Fincati, however, is confirmed by the work “della milizia marittima” (“of the maritime militia”) and a painting by Vittore Carpaccio. Oars were also crucial, being up to 12 metres in length and weighing from 50 to 80kg.
Model of the last BUCENTAUR
A valuable piece from the Italian Navy Museum of Naval History. General Paolucci Marquis of Roncole, Superior Commander of the Imperial Royal Navy, had this precious model built in 1828, based on drawings that were preserved. Having survived fire and disasters, it is the only faithful example representing the floating residence of the illustrious Venetian Doge.
The first BUCENTAUR was built in 1277; the last was launched under Doge Alvise Mocenigo on 12 January 1728. Length 43.80m; width 7.31m; height 8.31m.
It had 42 oars, with 4 men per oar.
The etymology of the word is uncertain, but many Venetians writers consider it to come from “bucio” or “bucin”, an ancient multi-oared vessel, and “di oro” because it was abundantly gilded, hence the term BUCENTAUR.
Attention was paid to every detail for the Doge; he embarked at the stern, following the authorities and ambassadors. Having reached the open sea, he would throw a blessed ring into the water for everlasting dominion over the seas.
One of the few remaining relics, an oar shaft. With the fall of the Most Serene Republic to the French in 1797, the BUCINTORO was also destroyed.
They burned it, after recovering the gold that adorned the vessel. It was an affront to the honour of the Republic and a humiliating defeat. The legend of an era of pomp and domination that has filled pages of history still lives on.
THE SHIP PAVILION
The pavilion displays a huge collection of historic boats in an area of about 1,250 square metres, on the site of the ancient “factory and workshop of the oars” and galleys of the Arsenal. The building was built in the mid-sixteenth century as a workshop and storehouse for oars. Shortly after its construction, in 1577, it was temporarily converted as the headquarters of the Great Council, the main governing body of the city, following the disastrous fire that left the Doge’s Palace unusable for a long time. The rooms essentially maintained their use of specialised carpentry for oars. After 1866, when Venice was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, the premises were used as warehouses and workshops by the Engineering Corps. In 1980, the spaces of the oar workshops were renamed as the Ship Pavilion. They house vessels of great historical importance and form an extension to the main premises of the museum.
Built in 1940 in Chioggia, it is the only surviving example of a “Bragagna Chioggiotta”. Its main use was for fishing, solely in the lagoon, consisting in lateral trawling, under sail, with a special net also known as a bragagna.
Thanks to the characteristics of their hulls and special rudders, bragagne could fish in the vast lagoon areas known as the “palui”, where the water almost never exceeds one metre in depth.
Known as a MAROTA or “vivier”, this was used by the lagoon boats over the centuries for preserving live fish. Inside it, fish could remain fresh during the return to the market in Rialto.
The two crewmen would remain away from home for long periods, fishing around Venice. During this time, the fishermen lived on board, taking rest and shelter in the compartment beneath the bow.
This is a smaller, 10.5-metre version of the chioggiotta boat known as a “bragozzo”, which was used for sea fishing and remained almost unchanged from the late 17th century until the 1960s. The most common size for offshore bragozzi was 36 Venetian feet, or 12.60m
However, bragozzi were also built measuring 40 feet and more, which the inhabitants of chioggia used for fishing on the east coast, reaching as far as the ports of Albania and Corfu.
The images in the interior, true works of art, represented an offering and a prayer. Typically, these religious paintings invoked protection during voyages and from the risk of stormy seas.
A boat made from larch was built in the arsenal in around 1870 and used for the funeral procession of the “arsenalotti” (custodians of the arsenal) from the church of San Biagio, the parish church of the Navy, to the island of San Michele. On the bow there is an angel with a trumpet symbolising the day of resurrection.
The coffin was placed in the centre of the vessel.
The allegorical frieze on the bow represents the flame of faith that gives light to darkness.
THE DISDOTONA “Piero Foscari”
On 19 April 1903, the “disdotona”, a gondola with 18 rowers representing the company, was launched. This beautiful boat, the only one of its kind in the world, is 25m in length and 1.60m wide. Technically innovative and admired by all, it was designed and built by the engineer Angelo Meloncini.
It was offered to the Company for the 25th anniversary of the Foscari family, by the Ministers Volpi and Giuriati, the municipality and Province of Venice, and other bodies.
A typical Venetian “topeto”-type boat, built by master shipwright Flaminio Costantini in 1928.
It was built in the Venice Arsenal in the first half of the 19th century as a vessel for high representative use. In 1866, King Vittorio Emanuele II boarded it and arrived in Venice, reunited with the Kingdom of Italy.
For the occasion of the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, the wooden sculptural group in the stern was modified to represent Venice crowning Italy.
This gesture shows the pride of Venice, which wanted to emerge from defeat with her head still held high. Its last outing was in 1959 for the return of the coffin of Pope St. Pius X to Venice.
Special thanks to:
Museo Storico della Marina Militare
Naval History Museum Venice