At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Daniele Manin - Venetian leader

Lawyer who led fight to drive out Austrians


Daniele Manin, whose legal knowledge helped him draw up a constitution for Venice
Daniele Manin, whose legal knowledge helped
him draw up a constitution for Venice
The Venetian patriot Daniele Manin, a revolutionary who fought to free Venice from Austrian rule and thereby made a significant contribution to the unification of Italy, was born on this day in 1804 in the San Polo sestiere.

Manin had Jewish roots. His grandfather, Samuele Medina,  from Verona, had converted to Christianity in 1759 and took the name Manin because Lodovico Manin, the last Doge of Venice, had sponsored his conversion.

He studied law at the University of Padua and then took up practice in Venice. As his practice developed, he gained a reputation as a brilliant and profound jurist.

He harboured a deep hatred and resentment towards the Austrians, to whom control of the city passed after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. The city became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia.

Manin's first physical act to advance cause of liberation was the presentation of a petition in 1847 to a body called the Venetian Congregation, an advisory assembly that had no actual powers. The petition listed the grievances of the Venetian people but Manin’s frankness was not to the liking of the Austrians, who arrested him in January 1848 on charges of treason.

The house opposite Campo Manin in Venice's San Marco sestiere, where Manin lived
The house opposite Campo Manin in Venice's
San Marco sestiere, where Manin lived
With his arrest, however, his popularity only increased. The revolution sweeping Europe reached Venice and riots broke out. The Austrians released Manin on March 17 in the hope of quelling the unrest but the uprising continued and nine days later they were driven out of the city. Manin drew on his legal knowledge to create a structure for a government and became president of the new Venetian Republic.

A supporter of the concept of a united Italy, Manin nonetheless did not favour joining forces with Piedmont and it was only under pressure from his compatriots that he signed over his powers to Piedmontese government – and with justification, too, it turned out.

When the armies of Sardinia-Piedmont suffered defeat to the Austrians at Custoza in July 1848, King Charles Albert signed an armistice in which he abandoned Venice to their former hated rulers, along with Lombardy. This prompted another uprising in Venice in which the Piedmontese representatives in the city came close to being lynched. It was only when Manin intervened that their lives were saved.

Venice remained an independent republic for almost another year but gradually the Austrians regained control of the surrounding mainland, with a clear intention of re-occupying the city. The Venetians were in no mood to capitulate meekly, however, and early in 1849 the Venetian Assembly reaffirmed Manin as president, with a mandate to resist until the end.

Manin is carried on the shoulders of joyful Venetians after the Austrians left the city. Painting by Naploeone Nani
Manin is carried on the shoulders of joyful Venetians after
the Austrians left the city. Painting by Naploeone Nani
The Austrian forces by now were strong enough to maintain an attack on the city for as long as it took to achieve their goal. Manin proved a good defensive tactician and with the help of Sardinian navy vessels and a Neapolitan army led by general Guglielmo Pepe he was able at least to delay the inevitable.

However, in May the Venetians had to abandon Fort Marghera, halfway between the city and the mainland and as food supplies dwindled cholera broke out. When the Sardinian fleet withdrew the Austrians had free rein to attack from the sea and in August 1849, when all provisions and ammunition were exhausted, Venice capitulated. Manin achieved an honourable surrender, obtaining an amnesty for all his supporters on condition that he, Pepe and other leaders agreed to go into exile.

Manin spent the rest of his life in France, giving his support eventually to the idea of a united Venice under a monarchy rather than a republic and working to promote the idea. He died in Paris in September 1957.

Luigi Borro's bronze statue of Manin and the winged lion is in Campo Manin
Luigi Borro's bronze statue of Manin and
the winged lion is in Campo Manin
In 1868, two years after the Austrians finally left Venice, his remains were returned home and he was granted a public funeral which saw his coffin carried in a gondola decorated with a golden lion of Saint Mark and two statues waving the national colours of Italy to represented the unification of Italy and Venice. His remains are interred in a sarcophagus, which is located in the Piazzetta dei Leoncini, on the north side of the Basilica San Marco.

Travel tip:

One of the main pedestrian routes in San Marco, roughly linking Teatro la Fenice with Teatro Goldoni in the direction of the Rialto Bridge leads through Campo Manin, the centrepiece of which is a bronze statue of Daniele Manin, sculpted by Luigi Borro and erected in 1875.  A bronze winged lion of Venice rests at the foot of the plinth.  Campo Manin, the former Campo San Pernian, abuts the Rio de l’Barcaroli  canal at one end, with Manin’s residence facing the square, looking towards the incongruously modern Palazzo Nervi-Scattolin, headquarters of the Venice Savings Bank.

The birthplace of Daniele Manin in Venice is marked with a plaque and portrait in relief
The birthplace of Daniele Manin in Venice is marked
with a plaque and portrait in relief
Travel tip:

Daniele Manin was born in the house of his parents in Rio Astori, an alley off Rio Terra Secondo in the San Polo sestiere, a short distance away from the broad Campo San Polo, just off Campo Sant’Agostin in a quiet, unpretentious area of the city well away from the crowds that throng the Rialto and Piazza San Marco.  The house is at the end of the alley with a stone plaque over the door bearing Manin's name and date of birth and a small portrait in relief.

More reading:


How the capture of Rome in 1870 completed Italian unification

Garibaldi and the Expedition of the Thousand

When the Austrians were driven out of Milan

Also on this day:


1909: The first Giro d'Italia







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