Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a Piece of Venetian History

by Web Editor
Fondaco dei tedeschi at night

The Fondaco, 'Fontego' in Venetian dialect, is the iconic palazzo that in the Thirteenth century was home to a community of German merchants

The Fondaco dei Tedeschi has been a part of the history of Venice for as many as eight centuries. First constructed in 1228 and then rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1508, it was converted into a Post Office in 1808, a purpose that it served for almost one century.

A mute witness of the Venetian mercantile era, as its name suggests, in medieval times the building was used as a trading post for German merchants who stocked goods arriving from Nuremberg and Augsburg (Bavaria, Germany) here. Located at the foot of the famous Rialto Bridge, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi is one of Venice’s largest and most recognizable buildings due, among other things to its architecture which sets it apart from most of the other buildings overlooking the Grand Canal. The Fondaco is a building based on a square plan. Crenellated at the top like an old castle, it has four levels facing onto a central courtyard (now covered by a steel and glass structure) housing a medieval well. On the ground floor, five large arches enclose a portico where goods were once unloaded from the Grand Canal while, on the upper floors, a rows of single or double mullioned windows decorate the façade.

The Fondaco dei Tedeschi in a stamp printed in Italy on 7 May 1990. On the right, we can read the text 'post office'
The Fondaco dei Tedeschi in a stamp printed in Italy on 7 May 1990. On the right, we can read the text in Italian language 'post office', as this was its function under Mussolini and later in the 1960s.
The Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Canaletto, 1707 - 1750 oil on canvas, h 62cm × w 83cm
The Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Canaletto, 1707 - 1750 oil on canvas, h 62cm × w 83cm
The Fondaco dei Tedeschi is the square based building back on the right of the the Rialto Bridge.
The Fondaco dei Tedeschi is the square based building back on the right of the the Rialto Bridge.

Over the centuries, several of Venice’s greatest artists, from Giorgione to Titian, worked on embellishing its façade and interiors. Considered a Venetian landmark, it is located in one of the city’s most central and vibrant areas just steps from the Rialto Bridge. Over the centuries, the ‘palazzo’ has been immortalized in numerous masterpieces of art history including Canaletto’s much loved aerial view of the building (see the main picture), but not only.

This Venetian ‘palazzo’ is so iconic that it was even mentioned in an 007 movie. In the 2006 episode of Casino Royale, a ‘palazzo’ (obviously not a real one), located just steps from the Rialto Bridge, closely resembling the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, collapsed in on itself, during an the movie scene Luckily, things went better for the real ‘Fontego’. Not only was it not razed to the ground but, instead, reconceived and redesigned as ‘T Fondaco dei Tedeschi’, the most important Venetian luxury department store (read the news).

The New
Department Store

With its 28 million visitors a year, its ranking as the tenth destination in the world in terms of number of visitors, and its ancient mercantile vocation, it seemed almost incredible that Venice did not have a department store dedicated to the purchase of luxury goods. Starting from 1 October 2016 all of this changed thanks to a project that tends to outclass any other ‘rival’ in the world.

Photos

The New
Department Store

With its 28 million visitors a year, its ranking as the tenth destination in the world in terms of number of visitors, and its ancient mercantile vocation, it seemed almost incredible that Venice did not have a department store dedicated to the purchase of luxury goods. Starting from 1 October 2016 all of this changed thanks to a project that tends to outclass any other ‘rival’ in the world.

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