Marino Sanuto the Elder

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The map of the Holy Land by Marino Sanudo, drawn in 1320 CE.

Marino Sanuto or Sanudo the Elder of Torcello (1260 – 1338) was a Venetian statesman and geographer.

He is best known for his lifelong attempts to revive the crusading spirit and movement; with this object he wrote his great work, the Secreta (or Liber Secretorum) Fidelium Crucis, otherwise called Historia Hierosolymitana, Liber de expeditione Terrae Sanctae, and Opus Terrae Sanctae, the last being perhaps the proper title of the whole treatise as completed in three parts or "books".[1] This work has much to say of trade and trade-routes as well as of political and other history; and through its accompanying maps and plans it occupies an important place in the development of cartography. It was begun in March 1306, and finished (in its earliest form) in January 1307, when it was offered to Pope Clement V as a manual for true Crusaders who desired the reconquest of the Holy Land. To this original Liber Secretorum Sanuto added largely; two other "books" were composed between December 1312 and September 1321, when the entire work was presented by the author to Pope John XXII, together with a map of the world, a map of Palestine, a chart of the Mediterranean, Black Sea and west European coasts, and plans of Jerusalem, Antioch and Acre. A copy was also offered to the king of France, to whom Sanuto desired to commit the military and political leadership of the new crusade.

Life and travels[edit]

Marino himself tells us that he had spent the best part of his life in "Romania", the lands of the Eastern empire; of the Morea he had especially intimate knowledge; he had also visited Cyprus, Rhodes, parts of the Syrian, Cilician and Egyptian coasts, France, Flanders and north Germany, both west and east of Denmark. He had been in Acre, Alexandria, Constantinople, Avignon, Bruges and Sluys, as well as (apparently) in Hamburg, Lübeck, Wismar, Rostock, Stralsund, Greifswald and Stettin. Among his friends and correspondents were Guglielmo Bernardi de Furvo, a Venetian nobleman who had travelled extensively in Muslim and Mongol lands (to Tabriz, Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo), Bishop Jerome of Kaffa, in the Crimea, who in 1312 had been sent to reinforce the Catholic mission in China, and perhaps Peter, the English-born bishop of Sevastopolis or Sukhum Kale in western Caucasia, who makes an appeal for aid to the prelates of England in 1330. Marino Sanuto's ancestor, Marco, had founded the greatness of his family after the Fourth Crusade as duke of the Archipelago and conqueror of Naxos, Paros, etc. (from 1207); and his descendant wrote with a personal interest in the odd question of crushing the Muslim World.


The crusading plans of the Secreta are double: first, Egypt and the Muslim world on the side towards Europe (Syria, Asia Minor, the Barbary States (North Africa), Granada, etc.) are to be ruined by the absolute stoppage of all Christian trade with the same. By such an interdict Sanuto hopes that Egypt, dependent on its European and other imports of metals, provisions, weapons, timber, pitch and slaves, would be fatally weakened, and the way thus prepared for the second part of the campaign the armed attack of the crusading fleet and army on the Nile delta. With the aid of the Mongol Tatars of Asia, natural allies of western Christendom, and of the Nubian Christians, the conquest of the Delta and of all Egypt was to be followed by that of Palestine, invaded and held from Egypt. Sanuto deprecates any other route for the crusade, and unfolds his plan of campaign, his bases of supply, his sources for the supply of good seamen, with great detail. Not only Mediterranean seaports, but the lakes of North Italy and central Europe, and the Hanseatic ports, are enumerated as nurseries of crusading mariners and marine skill. Finally, after the conquest of Egypt, Marino designs the establishment of a Christian fleet in the Indian Ocean to dominate and subjugate its coasts and islands. He also gives a sketch of the trade-routes crossing Persia and Egypt, as well as of the course of Indian trade from Coromandel and Gujarat to Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, and to Aden and the Nile.

The maps and plans which illustrate the Secreta are probably (in the main, at least) the work of the great portolan chart draughtsman Pietro Vesconte: practically the whole of this map-work corresponds with what Vesconte has left under his own name; much of it is indistinguishable. Among the plans that of Acre is of peculiar interest, being the most complete representation known of the great crusading fortress on the eve of its destruction, with the quarters of all its contingents of defenders (Templars, etc.) indicated. The chart of the Mediterranean and Euxine and of the Atlantic coasts of Europe is composed of five map-sheets, which together form a good example of the earliest scientific design or portolano; in the world-map a portolano of the Mediterranean world Is combined with work of pre-portolan type in remoter regions. Here the shore-lines of the countries well known to Italian mariners, from Flanders to Azov, are well laid down; the Caspian and the north German and Scandinavian coasts appear with an evident, though far slighter, relation to practical knowledge; and some idea is shown of the great continental rivers of the north, such as the Don, Volga, Vistula, Oxus and Syr Daria. Africa, away from the Mediterranean, is conventional, with its south-east projected, after the manner of Idrisi, so as to face Indian Asia, and with a western Nile traversing the continent to the Atlantic. Chinese and Indian Asia show little trace of the new knowledge which had been imparted by European pioneers from the Polos' time, and which appears so strikingly in the Catalan Atlas of 1375. Sanuto's Palestine map is remarkable for its space-defining network of lines, which roughly answer to a kind of scheme of latitude and longitude, though properly speaking they are not scientific at all. Of the Secreta, twenty-three MSS. exist, of which the chief are: Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, No. 237, 162 fols. (Secreta and Letters), with maps and plans on fols. 141, v.-144, r.; (2) London, British Museum, Addt. MSS., 27,376, 178 fols. with maps, &c. on fols. 18o, v.-190, r.; (3) Paris, National Library, MSS. Lat. 4939, with maps, &c. on fols. 9, r.-I I, r. 27, 98-99. All these are of the 14th century.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For full English translation see: Marino Sanudo Torsello, The Book of the Secrets of the Faithful of the Cross: Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis, trans by Peter Lock, Crusade Texts in Translation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).

The Secreta has only once been printed entire, by Bongars, in Gesta Dei per Francos, vol. ii. pp. 1–288 (Hanover, 1611). This was reprinted by the University of Toronto Press in 1972 with an English foreword by Joshua Prawer. It was translated by Peter Lock and published by Ashgate in 2011, see Marino Sanudo Torsello, The Book of the Secrets of the Faithful of the Cross: Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis, trans by Peter Lock, Crusade Texts in Translation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sanuto, Marino, the elder". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 196–197.

See also:

  • Friedrich Kunstmann, "Studien über Marino Sanudo den alteren, mit einem Anhange seiner ungedruckten Briefe " in Abhandlungen der historisch. Classe der Konigl. Bayerisch. Akademie der Wissenschaften, vol. vii. pp. 695–819 (Munich, 1855)
  • Foscarini, Letteratura Veneziana
  • Tiraboschi, Storia della Letteratura Italiana, vol. v.
  • Postansque, De Marino Sanuto (Montpellier, 1856)
  • C. R. Beazley, Dawn of Modern, III. 309-319, 391-392, 520-521, 549, 555.
  • Marino Sanudo Torsello, The Book of the Secrets of the Faithful of the Cross: Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis, trans by Peter Lock, Crusade Texts in Translation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011)