Hidden treasures

The Doge Enrico Dandolo and the conquest of Constantinople

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The Doge Enrico Dandolo and the conquest of Constantinople

The history of the Venetian Republic was inextricably linked to the Doge's charismatic personality, but also adventurers and traitors, who, in eleven centuries have shaped the history of Venice.

One of the Doges who left more memories is definitely Enrico Dandolo: according to tradition, he was elected to the total charge of the Venetian Republic in 1192, when he had already reached the venerable age of 85.

He had the merit (or shame?) to have convinced the Crusaders, who had gathered in Venice to liberate the Holy Land from the infidels, to divert their efforts on another target: Constantinople.

The conquest of Constantinople marked the culmination of Venetian power; ships brought back to Venice an incredible booty, including the Bronze Horses, now preserved in San Mark's Basilica.

But what happened to Enrico Dandolo? At 92 years old, blind, he personally commanded the Venetian fleet to the conquest of Constantinople... He died in 1205 due to necrosis and was buried in the women's gallery in the gallery of the Basilica of Saint Sophia, one of the places reserved for the imperial family. He was the first and last man to be buried in the great basilica.

According to tradition, after the conquest of the city by the Turks in 1453, his tomb was opened and his bones were thrown to the dogs. The plaque bearing the inscription 'Henricus Dandolo' still stands in the Sophia Museum. Recent studies identified it as a fake tombstone in the 1800s, positioned there by the Italian architect Gaspare Forlati.

Among the best known pieces of the booty brought to Venice from Constantinople there are precisely the bronze horses kept in St Mark's Basilica. The horses outside the Basilica, to the loggia, are just copies. The original bronze horses are kept in St Mark's Museum, that can be visited buying the ticket directly in the basilica or with our charming tour St Mark's Museum and Cathedral from above.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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