The Scola Spagnola (Spanish Synagogue)

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The Scola Spagnola (Spanish Synagogue)

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Foreign communities in Venice

Venice not only needed Venetian labour, but also that of foreigners living in the city in order to ensure profitable trade increased and its economy flourished. These foreigners also sometimes acted as intermediaries in business deals and often as interpreters.

Venice was said to offer hospitality to all foreigners, but in practice the lagoon city reserved a warmer welcome for those who served it in order to boost their own business. The city was, as a result, full of foreigners: in 1500 some 15% of the population was not of Venetian origin, an anomaly compared to other European states at that time.
Laws were stricter and taxes much higher for foreigners in Venice (especially those from Mediterranean countries) than those imposed on the Venetians. Despite this, foreigners were guaranteed a warm reception and protection for their property. They were even allowed to build places of worship, schools, nursing homes and hospices.
As the number of immigrants increased, they formed real communities that gradually became integrated in Venetian society.

The Serenissima destined a few buildings overlooking the water to be used by these communities as trading places and for residential use. These were known by the name of “fondaco” or “fontego” in the local dialect.
Several traders from the same community lived in a single fondaco. The Republic rented these apartments to live in, warehouses to store their goods and offices to transact business in, according to their prestige and pocket.

There were mainly two types of foreign community in Venice:
- Fluctuating foreign communities: merchants would stay in the corresponding fondaco on the Canal Grande for as long as their business required them to do so and then returned to their countries. This was the case for most Arabs, Germans, Persians and Turks;
- Permanent foreign communities: people who had fled to Venice as political reasons or religious refugees. These included the Jews, Greeks, Armenians and Dalmatians (known locally as "Schiavoni").

These communities had a strong influence on the lives of Venetians, as can be seen by the Venetians’ adoption of some aspects of their culture.

1500 - - rev. 0.1.7

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Venice and its lagoons

World Heritage, a dialogue between cultures: which future?

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