The sestiere of San Polo : a cross section of Venetian society in the second half of the fifteenth century
This thesis seeks to add to our understanding of Venetian society in the latter half of the fifteenth century by offering a new approach: an in-depth study of one of Venice's six districts (sestier1). My researches concentrated on the sestiere of San Polo, which embraced the Rialto. My intention in narrowing the focus of analysis is to reveal a cross-section of society. Fundamental to this inquiry is to discover the identity of this sestiere; to explore its little known social profile, trades and solidarities and to sharpen the images of its urban fabric. At the same time, it is an investigation into the significance and role of neighbourhood and local loyalties in Renaissance Venice. The opening chapter discusses the changing topography of San Polo and its definition over the following three centuries. Boundaries were blurred; parish disputes document how and why they were changed. Chapter Two introduces the three social orders recognised by contemporaries (patriciate, citizenry and artisans), tracing the sharpening of hierarchy, the growing cohesion of the cittadini originarii and the emergence of poorer neighbourhoods towards the city's margins. Chapter Three investigates noble and cittadini families in San Polo, through a number of detailed case studies. A complex and varied picture emerged, in which family structures and residential patterns amongst the nobility did not conform to rigid models. Chapter Four attempts to flesh out a collective portrait of the "little people", beginning with Rialto. Chapters Five and Six discuss property; initially through a massive survey after the Rialto fire (1514); Quattrocento sources are then used to examine property at Rialto, domestic housing, building activity and renting. The final chapter deals with neighbourhood, concluding that the sestiere was not an effective social unit and that local loyalties formed part of complex and changing webs of allegiance.