Venice- Imagination and Faith
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
Their world was crashing in around them. The beauty and sophistication, the art and architecture of northern Italy… crushed, stolen, burned. They ran from the chaos to the only place of refuge they could find: a series of marshy islands just off the coast of Italy in the upper reaches of the Adriatic Sea.
The historian John Julius Norwich once asked: “Who in their senses would build more than a fishing hut on the malarial, malodorous shoals of mud and sandbanks of the Venetian lagoon?” And his own answer to the question: “Those who had no choice.”
Their plight resulted from the catastrophe of barbarian invasions initiated by Attila the Hun in the middle of the fifth century A.D. These invasions were soon followed by Goths in the sixth century. Fleeing as refugees, they carried with them only the bare essentials and hoped merely for survival.
Today, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is the best preserved large city in all of Europe, and with no motor traffic, one hundred and fifty canals, four hundred bridges, one hundred and eighteen islands, palaces that border the Grand Canal, musicians on almost every corner, and gondolas that serve as taxis. Venice is a place of particular magic.
The mud, sand, peat, and clay of the islands required deep and very solid foundations of oak pilings driven deep into the subsoil. The pilings came from trees as far away as the Alps in the north and Croatia across the Adriatic to the east.
Working from the outside in, concentric circles of pilings were driven through the unstable lagoon floor to the bedrock of compacted clay. The number and thickness of the pilings depended on the weight of the building: La Salute church, for instance, is supported by over a million pilings (Insight City Guide: Venice, p. 18).
How a defeated people saw beyond mere survival remains mysterious. Yet to travel among the alleys and canals of remarkable Venice, is to be aware of a miraculous transformation. Somehow in the aftermath of losing everything, refugees had the “substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen” to create a meandering urban garden of architectural beauty for the world to enjoy.
PRAYER FOR THE WEEK:
Lord, inspire us to do the same. Allow us to take whatever has come our way, the good and the bad, the clear and the confusing, and, with a vision for the future and a faith in your guiding providence, lead us on and beyond any current difficulty. Allow us to view our lives with the same imagination that birthed the creative masterpiece of Venice.