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Paolo Veronese, Philosopher, Reading Room


Throughout the sixteenth century, the Venetian aristocracy showed increasing signs of disgregation.  While some families still enjoyed great wealth, others – due to the slow decline of maritime trade – were sliding into poverty.  Tensions between political factions intensified, and clientelism became rampant.  At the same time, the Republic was being eclipsed, both politically and militarily, by the great national monarchies emerging in the rest of Europe.

In Custodian of Wisdom, you’ll tour the monumental rooms of the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice's historic public library, to see how the government used imagery to communicate a sense of purpose and unity to the noble students while ensuring that they understood and accepted the responsibilities inherent to their class.  You’ll also discover that this physical repository of accumulated knowledge was in reality the greatest effort of the intellectual elite to refashion Venice’s international image and present the Republic as the realization of Plato's Ideal State, ruled by an enlightened aristocracy and destined to last for all eternity.

Reading Room of the Biblioteca Marciana

Reading Room
of the Biblioteca Marciana


We'll begin our guided tour of the Biblioteca Marciana at the base of the monumental staircase, the inspiration for the famed Golden Staircase in the Doge's Palace.  Under the gilded vaults and domes, we'll retrace the Library's origins with the donation of Cardinal Bessarion's extraordinary collection of Greek and Latin codices and talk about the importance of the Library as a symbol of Venice’s newfound national identity in the aftermath of its greatest military defeat.  We'll also unlock the mystery of Renaissance hieroglyphs and see that the symbols in the frescoes and stuccoes had the objective of inculcating qualities of dedication to duty and moral excellence in the noble youth who studied in the Library and who were destined to govern the Republic.  Climbing the staircase, we'll follow in the footsteps of these young noble students as they rise above the vices of wrath, envy, lust, and avarice to embrace virtue and knowledge and learn why the study of classical philosophy came to be considered essential to the civicly engaged nobleman.  Inside the former classroom of the public school, we'll talk about education and intellectual life in Renaissance Venice and learn the reasons that attracted internationally famous teachers and pedagogues to the city.  You’ll also discover the central role of the Venetian aristocracy in co-opting humanism to promote the belief in the superiority of the Republic and in the innate virtue of the aristocracy.  Beyond lies the gilded Reading Room with paintings by the great masters of sixteenth-century Venetian art.  We'll discuss the important lessons of life that the allegorical scenes were meant to evoke for the students and see the long journey of sacrifice and of intellectual and moral preparation conclude with a philosophical validation of the Venetian aristocracy's vision of society: nobly born, liberally educated, morally principled, the city’s aristocracy benevolently ruled by natural right, and as a result peace, justice, and longevity were ensured for the Republic.

Paolo Veronese's painting of the Mathematical Sciences and Intellection is included in "Custodian of Wisdom", Venicescapes guided educational tour of the Biblioteca Marciana.

Paolo Veronese
Mathematical Sciences and Intellection
Reading Room




Approximately 2 1/2 hours


Marciana Library
– works by Titian, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Giuseppe Salviati, Battista Franco, Andrea Schiavone, and more


  • A precious gift: Cardinal Bessarion's codices and the preservation of the classical world
  • Where wisdom dwells: the Marciana Library and the rebranding of Venetian national identity
  • Going to school: the curriculum of the Republic's future rulers
  • University awaits: mathematics and Aristotle
  • Renaissance philosophy: reconciling paganism and Christianity
  • The search for truth and wisdom: Plato through the eyes of Plotinus
  • Seneca enlisted: propagating the Stoic ideal
  • The everlasting Republic: Venice as the realization of the Platonic paradigm


The price indicated for this private guided educational tour of the Biblioteca Marciana is intended to cover the costs of the Society's continued research initiatives and organization and is in compliance with the conditions concerning the activities of non-profit organizations as set forth in the Ministry of Finance Unified Code Article 148, paragraph 3 (T.U. Art. 148, comma 3).

  • Price: €220.00 (euro) for two (2) persons.  Each additional adult costs €60.00.  Minors under the age of 18 cost €30.00 each.  Entrance fee is not included.


  • In consequence of the periodic closure of the monumental rooms of the Biblioteca Marciana for conferences and temporary exhibits, the itinerary can be definitively confirmed only a month prior to arrival in Venice.
  • Entrance to the Biblioteca Marciana is included in the ticket for the Museums of Piazza san Marco, along with the Doge's Palace and the Correr Museum, as well as the Museum pass, which includes all of the civic museums.


To help make this private guided tour a culturally enriching and educational experience, these books are recommended.


Reviews of
Custodian of Wisdom



“The tour of the magnificent staircase and the reading room of the Marciana Library blends beautiful art, stories from mythology and the Bible, history, education, philosophy, and sixteenth-century Venetian society.  It was an experience that I could never have imagined and, without exaggeration, one of the highlights of my visit to Venice.  Wholeheartedly recommended!”

Julie Conklin
San Diego, California


For further information about this unique educational tour
and reservations, write to


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