Domenico I Contarini
Domenico Contarini (Birthdate unknown, died 1071 in Venice) was the 30th Doge of Venice. His reign lasted from his election following the death of Domenico Flabanico in 1043 until his own death in 1071. During his reign, the Venetians recaptured Zadar and parts of Dalmatia that had been lost to the Kingdom of Croatia in the previous few decades. The Venetian naval fleet was heavily built up during his reign, the economy thrived, and the Republic of Venice had reasserted its control over much of the Mediterranean Sea.
The House of Contarini were one of the oldest founding families of the Venetian Republic, and were and remain through extended family consanguinity present in the Veneto’s population, represented in over 20 auxiliary and cadet noble branches that include ranks among Europe’s and Great Britain’s sovereign, royal and aristocratic descendants.
960 AD marks the first historically verified documentation of the Contarini. Domenico hailed as the first, Contarini born, Doge. By 1797, when the most recent Doge reigned, the family had produced 8 Doges—many were much loved and revered by the Republic’s sophisticated citizenry—who had been quite successful at enriching the state’s coffers, culture and worldwide high-status.
Indeed, the Contarini had led, at various points, the Venetian Republic, forward through ever changing ages and commensurate with ample changes in trade, technology, trade: both import and exports, science, religion, art, banking and finance as well as in diplomacy … and war.
A good thing, too, is that many wealthy Venetians, such as the Contarini, enjoyed the many monetary and health benefits wrought of e.g. the Spice Trade aka Spice trade, which facilitated longevity, a fundamental requirement for assumption of the role of Doge, since the position mandated that a Doge, “must be an octogenarian who commands health, wealth and wisdom”.
Significant were the numerous geo-political and economic contributions made by generations of the august House of Contarini to the long-lived Venetian Republic.
After all, it pays to consider that the Venetian Republic, in one form or another, lasted as a functioning independent state for over 1500 years!
It was only Napoleon’s march into Venice, which sounded its ignominious demise, registered as a direct assault on its elite aristocratic stalwart families and their assiduously tracked bloodlines contained in the fabled Book of Books, which Napoleon, have been ill-received by the Venetians, took umbrage and took malicious revenge by seizing and burning one the most ancient copies of that pedigreed manuscript to spite the aristocracy who had shunned him.
No less, the Contarini, like many of their Republic’s peers, had already indulged a predilection for building magnificent residential and civic structures. Over time that proved itself a taste that seems to have been hereditary, as evidenced by the sheer volume, high-quality and variety of styles executed over the centuries, which invariably came to bear a uniquely "exuberant Venetian design vocabulary", bearing distinct and unmistakable Eastern European, Near and Far Eastern influences and luxuriousness..
Often, their extant buildings are seen punctuated by ornamental flourishes (often errantly referred to as pre-Baroque) i.e., design elements that balance at counterpoint, effecting a unifying whole, the austere and understated elegance of a building’s often plainer core element, be it dictated by a predominate shape, material or repetition of decoration treatment(s). That often accounts for the lasting powerful, uncluttered, visual interest and impact made by Venetian buildings, no matter how ornate the edifice. Touted by accomplished native sons such as Andrea Palladio, who was employed by the Contarini and their relatives: he designed several of the most outstanding neo-classical structures in the Veneto’s environs.
Importantly, the latter’s works satisfied his clients, which, full-circle, he had helped to create. Many such works are found to have often favored a minimalist, if neo-classical, dialog among their design elements. A passion for purity of line, scale and proportion were fundamental to and codified in Palladio’s Quattro Libri dell'Architettura aka The Four Books of Architecture, detailing vital points of design interest for architecture and decoration enthusiasts and professionals, and remains used by architecture students even today.
So it can be little surprise that the Contarinis’ sense of self and value was closely linked and entwined with their precious buildings. That oeuvre includes a dazzling array of palaces extant in Venice, Vincenza, Verona, and Brescia as well the enormous family country seat, the Villa Contarini—which contains the family’s immortal crypt, centered in a rural Padua aka Padova (its Italian spelling)—and serves in part as a reminder to onlookers of the family's glorious legacy and contributions to the Venetian Republic, and by extension, to the world.
Like their Villa, what prevails is a central and unified theme, effectively a “structure”, which in the brick and motor, stone and anvil sense, had come to represent the formation of a great mercantile civilization. The Villa's humble home town setting … serves to buttress the area’s agrarian mythos, a very real and essential aspect of the Venetian Republic's long tenure at sustained independence. It very existence signifies the significance of a preserved “terra ferma” aka the Vento, tasked to apt farming, for feeding the Republic … it is one of exuberance and seemingly unfathomable grandeur, yet so tellingly practical beyond its luxury. It encompasses and forms, as if a metaphor itself, its host village’s center, known, tellingly as Piazzola sul Brenta: built by descendants of no other than Domenico Contarini.
Contarini was a liberal builder of churches and monasteries, such as San Nicolò di Lido in Lido di Venezia and Sant'Angelo di Concordia. In 1071, just before his death, he commissioned builders to begin work on expanding and restoring St Mark's Basilica.
By his wish, he was buried at the church of San Nicolò al Lido when he died in 1071. His tomb is above the main doorway, surmounted by a portrait bust which shows him wearing the "corno," the distinctive doge's hat.
His son, Enrico Contarini, was Bishop of Castello from 1074 to 1108. Enrico Contarini was the spiritual leader of an expedition to the Holy Land in 1099-1100 that brought back the remains of Saint Nicholas and Saint Theodore the Martyr.
- Nicol, Donald M. (1992-05-07). Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations. Cambridge University Press. p. 71-72. ISBN 978-0-521-42894-1. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
- Rendina, Claudio. (2003). I Dogi. Storia e segreti. 2.ed. Rome. ISBN 88-8289-656-0
|Doge of Venice