“L’ Arsenale” is located in S. Martino in the Sestiere di Castello. Among the various meanings of the origin of the name we report that of the Masons that seems more relevant and that is dock, a word of Arabic origin that indicates the place where the ships are manufactured and stored.
Founded around 1104 under the Doge Ordelafo Falier on two islands called the Gemelle, it was continuously expanded and enriched from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century by new and increasingly suitable buildings called via Arsenale nuovo (1325), Arsenale nuovissimo (1473), Riparto delle Galeazze (1539), Canale delle Galeazze and Vasca (1564). In 1579 Antonio da Ponte rebuilt the Casa del Canèvo, founded in the 14th century.
It is surrounded and protected by high walls and square towers with the sign of the Lion of St. Mark. The entrance is protected by an advanced barrier, built in 1682, with eight statues overhanging the pillars, which are pagan gods and with four lions, brought to Venice from Attica by Francesco Morosini. The door, erected in 1460, was transformed in 1688 into a large portal, almost a triumphal arch, with emblems and war trophies in honour of Morosini.
The government of Arsenale and the Arsenalotti
The government of Arsenale was entrusted to three patricians, elected among the members of the Great Council, experts in maritime affairs called Provveditori or Patrons at the Arsenale, and they were called patron on guard, patron cashier and patron in bank; they remained in office for thirty-two months and lived in lodgings called “Inferno” “Purgatory” and “Paradise”, as is still witnessed today by the toponymy; to these three patricians were added, later on, two others and then a third with the title of Super Provveditori all’Arsenal.
The work inside was done by the workers: the Arsenalotti. It began at the tolling of a bell that began at the same time as the touch of the Marangona (the largest bell in San Marco); the Arsenalotti worked until sunset with a two-hour break for lunch. They were almost never fired and kept their place even in times of calamity such as plague, labour surpluses and so on. They enjoyed institutional privileges: they were employed to guard the Mint, the treasure of St. Mark’s and among others, they were also used in the fire service.
Inside the Arsenale there was a school for their children with chosen teachers.
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