Custodian of Wisdom
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 politically
and militarily eclipsed by the great national monarchies emerging in the rest of Europe.
“Actaeon and Diana” (detail)
For presumptuous students who believed they had arrived at the end
of the journey, the fateful story of Actaeon admonished that further hard work and self-discipline were necessary.
“Custodian of Wisdom”, you’ll explore the historical rooms of the Marciana 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.
We'll begin our
visit in 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 origins of the
Library 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, destined to govern the Republic, who studied in the Library. 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 academic 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.
“The People” (detail)
Plato contends that a defective education results in intemperance when appetites prevail and the
individual who is otherwise destined for custodianship of the State sinks to the level of the people
and seeks to satisfy his primitive desires.
Approximately 2 1/2 hours
Marciana Library - works by Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, Salviati, Padovanino, and others
A precious gift: Cardinal Bessarion's
codices and the preservation of the classical world
Where wisdom dwells: the Library and the rebranding of 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 Platonic paradigm
In consequence of the periodic closure of the monumental rooms
of the Marciana Library for conferences and temporary exhibits,
the itinerary can be definitively confirmed only a month prior to arrival in Venice.
PRICE AND SPECIAL NOTES
The price indicated for this guided tour 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).
To help make this guided tour a culturally enriching and educational experience,
these books are recommended.
For further information about this unique guided walking tour, write to: