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Venice (Veneto, Italy)

Cittá di Venezia

Last modified: 2021-08-24 by rob raeside
Keywords: italy | veneto | st. mark | winged lion | serenissima | venice | venezia |
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image by M. Schm÷ger, 14 August 2002

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Description of the Flag

The flag of Venice (capital of Veneto) is red with yellow ornament, and near the hoist a red field with the lion in red and the same book open.
Pascal Vagnat, 22 September 1998

The Italian city of Venezia adopted a new flag, a new gonfalon a new coat of arms and a new seal in 1996 and 1997. The new coat of arms and the new gonfalon were adopted with a presidential decree on the 6th November 1996. The new flag and the new seal were adopted with a presidential decree on the 8th January 1997. All the emblems were presented on a ceremony on Friday 22nd May 1998 at in the Ducal palace in Venezia with people in middle-ages costumes.
One can see all these emblems at <>.
Follow the link "Il nuovo stemma della Città di Venezia" (The new coat of arms of the city of venezia) or <> (follow then gonfalone (bottom) and bandiera (bottom) to see their pictures). On these beautiful and interesting (even for non Italian speaking people) pages are to be seen the big images of the coat of arms (stemma), the seal (sigillo), the flag (bandiera), the gonfalon (gonfalone). Follow each times the link. There is a very detailed and legal information concerning the emblems of Venezia through the history.
Other pages shows the coat of arms, the seal, the flag and the gonfalon of the province of Venezia; the image of the different civic crown in use in Italian heraldry (region, province, city, commune, etc...) as well as example of use of these crowns. These pages are really impressive with the information given and the high quality of the images. However if the picture of the flag of Venezia is big, there is a lack of zoom on some parts of it.
Pascal Vagnat 8 November 1998

The city adopted its new symbols with presidential decree in 1996 and 1997. The coat of arms is the same than the former one without any connotation of fascism or bundle of lictors. The gonfalon is red bordered with gold ornament and four armillary azure and gold spheres. The coat of arms appear in the middle with the words "CITT└' DI VENEZIA" (city of Venice). There are other precise ornamental details. There is also a seal and a flag. The flag is 100 x 200 cm, res semÚe with golden flames, bordered red, ornamented with gold, charged with the following emblems: the archangel Gabriel, the Holy Dove, the Happy Virgin of the Annunciation, the symbol of the Evangelist Saint Matthew, the Happy Virgin with the Holy son, the symbol of the Evangelist Saint Luke, the symbol of the Evangelist Saint Mark, the symbol of the Evangelist Saint John (all these pictures in natural colours). The flag is charged with the lion of Saint Mark passant with the Holy Book open and the words (see supra), the earth, the sea, a castle of three towers. The end of the flag has seven tongues red, gold ornamented charged in their centres with azure wheels charged with armillary golden spheres. There are other details.
Pascal Vagnat 9 November 1998

I think that in the pages of the book held by the lion should appear only four (4) lines instead of the five that I see. Nowadays, in the pages of the book the inscription is :

left page (even) right page (odd)

These pieces of word make together the Latin phrase 'Pax tibi, Marce, evangelista meus' ('Peace to you, o Mark, my evangelist') .
Diego Nobili 10 November 1998

This flag is listed under number 49 at the chart "Flags of Aspirant Peoples" [eba94].
Ivan Sache , 16 September 1999

The quotation is not biblical.  It is from a mediaeval legend that an angel appeared to St. Mark when he was traveling from Aquileia (at the head of the Adriatic) to Rome and said to him "Pax tibi, Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum," (Peace unto thee Mark my evangelist.  Here your body will rest.) Since the text is not biblical, I conclude that the book cannot be a bible.
Joe McMillan, 9 March 2001

Above is the current flag, as granted on 8 January 1997.
Source: [ald98].
M. Schm÷ger, 14 August 2002

This is the city flag. I have a photo. In the photo the red shade is darker. This flag seems to be based on the one from the XVII century but it has some variations from it. I believed that before this flag, the flag from 1942 until 1997 was the Italian one but with a red square in canton baring the lion (see Historical Flags of Venice), but perhaps there was an intermediate version 1996/97-1997/98 with dark red shade?
I believe that the flag presentation was made Friday 22 May 1998. The old (?) flag was still used until this day.
Jaume OllÚ, 18 August 2002

Indeed, from 1942 to 1997 the official flag of the city of Venice was the Italian tricolore with the lion in the canton. However, variants of the traditional flag with the lion, similar to the 1997-present flag, were used unofficially. As far as I can see, the shades of the red varied considerably, although I admit that the official drawing depicted in [ald98] shows a darker red than just 255-0-0 red. The presidential decree only speaks of "rosso" (red) and doesn't specify it more thoroughly.
M. Schm÷ger, 19 August 2002

Historical Background

I found some background on the use of the Lion of St. Mark for Venice in John Julius Norwich's A History of Venice (New York:  Knopf, 1982; originally published in the UK as Venice (2 vols.) by Allen Lane, 1977 and 1981). 
Citations below are from the Knopf edition.

Page 11--The association of St. Mark with Venice traces back to the tradition that the Evangelist founded the see of Aquileia.  As a result of several schisms, the patriarchate of St. Mark was claimed by the metropolitan of Grado, later subsumed by Venice, in the 6th century. 

Pages 52-53--"On 9 May, AD 1000--it was Ascension Day--the Doge heard Mass in the cathedral of S. Pietro di Castello, and received from the Bishop of Olivolo a consecrated standard."  Norwich's footnote to this says "Gfro"rer believes that this banner bore, possibly for the first time, the now familiar Venetian emblem of the winged lion with the open book in its paws."
The citation is to A. F. Gfro"rer's Byzantinische Geschichten, ed. J. B. Weiss, 3 vols. (Graz, 1872-7).

Page 134, quoting the French chronicler Geoffrey de Villehardouin, describing Doge Enrico Dandolo's 1203 amphibious attack on Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade:  "For the Duke of Venice, who was an old man and stone blind, stood fully armed on the prow of his galley, with the banner of St. Mark before him, and cried out to his men to drive the ship ashore if they valued their skins.  And so they did, and he and they leapt down and planted the banner before him in the ground.  And when the other Venetians saw the standard of St. Mark and the Doge's galley before their own, they were ashamed, and followed him ashore."

Illustration 28, facing page 197, shows a black and white photo of a picture of this event from Villehardouin's original manuscript with two light colored flags flying from the stern of a Venetian boat, both with what appear to be dark-colored winged lions, possibly red on yellow.
Joseph McMillan , 21 February 2000

History of flag usage by the Republic of Venice, drawn from John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice (New York: Knopf, 1982) and the story of how St Mark came to be the patron of Venice and the winged lion of St Mark to be its symbol.
From pages 10-11:  Invasions by the Lombards in the 6th-7th centuries caused inhabitants of coastal communities to flee en masse to the islands of the Adriatic lagoons.  "For the later history of the Republic the most important of these flights from Lombard domination was also one of the first [ca. 639]--that from Aquileia to Grado.  The see of Aquileia had traditionally been founded by St Mark himself, in consequence of which its metropolitan Archbishop--later to bear the title of Patriarch--was supreme in the lagoons, occupying a place in the Italian hierarchy second only to that of the Pope of Rome."  Schisms over the course of years led to rivalry between the patriarch at Grado and a reestablished see at Aquileia, "but it was the Patriarch of Grado who occupied the ancient Episcopal throne in which St Mark had once sat.... [This] begins the association of St Mark with Venice which was merely to be confirmed when his body was brought from Alexandria some 250 years later."
From pages 28-30:  "One day--so the story goes--when St Mark was traveling from Aquileia to Rome, his ship chanced to put in at the islands of Rialto.  There an angel appeared to him with the words 'Pax tibi, Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum.' The historical evidence for this story is, to say the least, uncertain; the prophecy--since St Mark later became Bishop of Alexandria and remained there till he died--would have seemed improbable; but the legend certainly came in very handy when, in 828 or thereabouts, two Venetian merchants returned from Egypt with a corpse which they claimed to be that of the Evangelist, stolen from his Alexandria tomb. . . . That a body generally thought to be that of St Mark was brought to Venice at this time is generally believed to be a historical fact."  Doge Giustiniano Participazio ordered the construction of a special chapel attached to his own palace for the enshrinement of the relics.  "His decision to preserve [the body] in an obvious dependency of his own palace deliberately associated it with the civil rather than the religious authorities of the state.  From that moment on, old St Theodore and his dragon [the previous patron saint of the city] were relegated to the top of a column in the Piazzetta and, for all practical purposes, forgotten.  St Mark became the patron of Venice.  His lion, its wings outstretched, its forepaw proudly indicating the angelic utterance, was to be emblazoned on banners and bastions, on poops and prows, whenever and wherever the Venetian writ was to run."
Joseph McMillan , 10 March 2001

Flag until 1997

image by Roberto Breschi from CISV

The Gonfalone

from <>

Ceremonial Flag

image by Jaume OllÚ, 14 November 1998

The ceremonial (gail) flag of the city of Venice. In the ceremonial (gail) flag a ducal (?) crown appears above the head of lion. The same flag seems to be the duke's standard. I don't have notes or dates about this flags
Jaume OllÚ, 14 November 1998

Civic Flag

The civic flag of Venice is the Italian tricolour with a red square placed on the upper half of the green stripe and with the golden lion of S. Mark on it. This flag was confirmed and slightly modified on 1st May 1942. Naturally everybody knows the civic gonfalon rather than this flag. The Venezia province and the Veneto region have also flags that look like the gonfannon, increasing the historical confusion about Venetian flags.
Mario Fabretto, 20 September 1996

Yacht Ensign

image by Jaume OllÚ, Mello Luchtenberg & Tomislav Todorovic, 26 June 2019

See also photo from "Adria Bandiere" catalogue.
See also: Veneto

Coat of Arms

image from <>

La Fenice opera house

image by Ivan Sache, 14 September 2010

The opera house Gran Teatro La Fenice (Grand Theater "The Phoenix"), usually known as La Fenice, was inaugurated on 16 May 1792 in Venice. Designed by the architect Gian Antonio Selva, La Fenice replaced the San Benedetto Theater, which had been destroyed in 1789 in a blaze, therefore its name, alluding to the mythological bird able to arise again from its own ashes. Burned again in 1832, the opera house was rebuilt again. On 29 January 1996, a criminal blaze destroyed La Fenice for the second time; with the help of the UNESCO, the opera house was rebuilt "com'era e dov'era" (as it was and where it was) after years of controversy and eventually reinaugurated on 12 November 2003.

Considered as one of the world's temples of bel canto, La Fenice enjoyed the first appearance of several famous operas, including Rossini's "Tancredi" (6 February 1813) and "Semiramide" (3 February 1823), Bellini's "I Capuleti e i Montecchi" (11 March 1830) and "Beatrice di Tenda" (16 March 1833), Donizetti's "Belisario" (4 February 1836), and Verdi's "Ernani" (9 March 1844), "Attila" (17 March 1846), "Rigoletto" (11 March 1851), "La Traviata" (6 March 1853) and "Simon Boccanegra" (12 March 1857). "La Traviata" was played in 2003 for the inauguration of the modern Fenice.

La Fenice is the decor, if not the "main character" of the first scene of the movie "Senso", filmed in 1954 by Lucchino Visconti (1906-1976). Based on the short novel of the same name published in 1883 by Camillo Boito (1836-1914, mostly known as the brother of the composer and librettist Arrigo Boito [1842-1918]), the movie relates a love affair between an Italian countess and an Austrian officer. Visconti and the scenarist Suso Cecchi d'Amico (1914-2010) have dramatically changed Boito's novel, putting the emphasis on the political struggle of the Italian patriots against the Austrian occupation. The Fenice scene, not found in Boito's novel and often considered as Visconti's esthetic manifesto, shows the Italian patriots transforming the third act of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" into a nationalist demonstration; at the end of the scene, the patriots throw down green, white and red sheets of paper ("reconstructing" the Italian flag) down to the Austrian officers sitting in the orchestra.
[In memoriam, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, d. 31 July 2010, author of coauthor of so many Italian masterpiece movies]

On 6 September 2007, the beloved Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007) died in Modena. As a sign of mourning, the Vienna opera house hoisted a black flag, a honour until then strictly reserved to its honour members. The flag of La Fenice was half-staffed and added a black sash, as shown on a photo credited to SIPA agency.

The flag of La Fenice is white with the Fenice's emblem, made of a golden phoenix standing on a light blue theater curtain charged with the golden letters "GRAN TEATRO / LA FENICE".
[In memoriam, Luciano Pavarotti's farewell to music - his last public performance during the opening ceremony of the Turin Olympic Games 2006]
Ivan Sache, 14 September 2010

In spite of the impression given by the picture you found on, the Fenice's flag is not white but very light blue with the emblem. Here is a picture I took where it might be more obvious - but the blue is so light that it is not easy to see it on a photograph.
Olivier Touzeau, 17 September 2010