Group 3 : Power and the City

Power and the City


Our group was charged with mapping power in Venice in the year 1740 based on the property records (Catastici) of 1740, held in the Archivio di Stato di Venezia. In particular, we were intrigued by the presentation of Prof. Doris Raines who spoke to us about patrician families and how they extended their power over different neighbourhoods through property holdings. We decided to test this assertion by visualising the areas of influence of a number of Venetian public officials.

Link to the visualisation of the data :



To start, we narrowed our focus on a group of Venetian patricians, holding the highest positions in government in the year 1740. We picked the doge who was in power at this time, Alvise Pisani, and the doge that followed Pietro Grimani (as he was rising to power). We also chose five people from the Procuratori di San Marco, the highest positions of the Venetian government, who were in office in 1740 (Zaccaria Canal, Alvise Mocenigo, Nicolò Venier, Marco Foscarini, Simon Contarini). To these, we added two other individuals (Nicolò Foscarini, Nicolò Tron), non-goverment officials who were large property holders. Finally, the properties of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco were mapped to diversify the perspective (by also showing the power of an institution). The aim of our project was to link spatial information with power.



Our sources were the Archivio di Stato di Venezia Catastici records for 1740. In particular we were given two neighbourhoods or sestiere (San Marco and San Polo). These two sestiere were broken up in 25 different parishes, each having its own property records. In the indexes of these records we identified the chosen people and the properties which they held. We then created a program to visually represent the distribution of properties held by each public official in these parishes.



The results showed that some officials had properties scattered across the different parishes of the city, while others had concentrated holdings in only one parish (their home parish). Each doge had large property holdings, but the Mocenigo family seemed to be especially important. The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was revealed to be a major property holder, owning a staggering 98 properties, divided among 14 different parishes. The visualisation also allowed us to map the total number of properties (catastici records) which were found in each parish.

In order to deepen our understanding of the property distribution in the city, we also focused on two in-depth case studies: the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and Alvise Giovanni IV Mocenigo (who became doge in 1763). Examining the individual records of the properties, we were able to chart the type of property, the address, and the rent received for each holding. These properties ranged in type from apartments, to shops, to houses. The rents received, ranged from 1 ducato for a small apartment to 118 ducati for an entire casa.



Although the doges were significant property holders in Venice, their holdings as well as the income derived from them was very small compared to the property holdings and the income of the Scuola di San Rocco. This reveals the power of this religious institution held in the city. Finally, data mapping gives a visualisation of power and how it is diffused throughout the city. It also reveals the relative power of individuals compared to large entities.


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