Venice – obstacle for the Crusades?

Venice – obstacle for the Crusades? The Venetian Chronicles’ Viewpoint

By Serban Marin

Revista Istorica, New series, 23, No.3-4 (2012)

Venice - The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola, Canaletto, about 1738

Introduction: At first sight, the topic’s title sounds somewhat intriguing. It certainly raises the question: is it possible for the Venetians to regard themselves as an obstacle for such a noble initiative as crusades had been? On the contrary, the position of Venice is many times emphasized in the Venetian chronicles, and there are even some cases that place the city at the core of the crusading movement.

However, at a more attentive examination of the chronicles written in Venice in the fourteenth–sixteenth centuries, one can detect some elements that might be regarded as obstacles placed by the Venetians in the way of the various crusaders.


Certainly, several more or less recent scholars have focused upon the Fourth Crusade when referring to Venice as one of the main factors that had provoked the so-called ‘deviation’ of the crusade from its original destination – Egypt – towards Constantinople. This point of view has been imposed in time as a consecrated tendency, the image of the Venetians in the crusading movement being now almost settled, in the sense of an element that diverted – and thus deserted – from the original crusading ideals. Thus, the Venetian community as a whole has been blamed for its mercantile habits and pragmatic behavior. Naturally, we will not embrace this point of view and, on the contrary, we will make an attempt to regard things in a more complex ensemble.

Nevertheless, the episodes that we have detected in the Venetian chronicles have normally nothing to do with the Fourth Crusade, which is regarded as a glorious moment in the Republic’s history, but with other events. These obstacles are more or less important, and their influence upon the crusades was never decisive.

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