The Polish King Henry of Valois left Cracow on 18 June 1574 in order to succeed to the French throne. He travelled via Vienna, Venice, Ferrara, Mantua, Cremona and Turin to Lyon, where his family was waiting for him. The King stayed in Venice from 17 to 27 July. The signoria knew about his desire to visit on 30 June and started the preparations immediately: ‘elessero molti nobili con carico di proveder per vettovaglie, per apparati, Musici, Comici, e chi per l’una, e chi per l’altra cosa […]’.1 Two savii agli ordini (Ministers of the Marine) were appointed and charged with organizing the festivities in the city.2 One reporter of the celebrations called Thomaso Porcacchi mentions the two musicians who were responsible for the conception of the musical performances: Claudio Merulo and Giuseppe Bonardo. Merulo was employed as organist at San Marco and asked to compose music for the festival events.3 Bonardo was charged with engaging the musicians for the concerts.4 There was a great demand for instrumentalists to serve the diverse ceremonies. The capitano of Padua had orders to send to Venice all his trumpeters and drummers. It was pointed out that this particular solemn occasion required trained trumpeters and not military signal players. Pipers and horn players should also be sent - if possible 30 persons.5 The following will reconstruct the musical performances6 in honour of Henry on 18 July, the day of his entry into Venice.
In the morning, when the king left his accommodation at Murano in order to go to mass, he heard ‘trombetti e tamburi’ (trumpets and drums) and a ‘gran salva di codete’ (great salvo from salutes fired out of mortars). On the way back gun salutes were fired ashore and volleys with rifles and muskets from the offshore boats.7 In the late afternoon the doge and the signoria entered a magnificent galley with about 400 slave rowers in order to pick up Henry at his accommodation and to accompany him to San Nicolò del Lido, where the king would start his triumphal entry into the city. While leaving San Marco they were greeted by the surrounding ships with rifles and artillery. This was repeated on their arrival at Murano, where small cannon were also fired ashore. After the official welcome at the Palazzo Capello, the doge, signoria, king and his entourage entered the splendid galley, listening again to a ‘bella salva’ (fine salvo) of artillery, rifles and cannon.8 When the ship arrived at Sant’Elena an enormous number of boats appeared: among them 14 galleys with senators, the fuste (privateers) of the Council of Ten, 200 brigantines of the guilds and a huge number of rowing boats with spectators. All ships were decorated most festively, and the ones under official command were also armed. On the boats of the guilds there were trumpeters and drummers, and sometimes timpanists or castanet players as well.9 When from all boats a simultaneous salvo was fired and the galleys repeated the salute, the king enjoyed this perfect co-ordination. Then, up to the arrival at San Nicolò, there was ‘tanto strepito d’artigliaria, e d’archibugi, di trombe, e tambori ch’era uno stupor, in tanto che apertamente si dimostrava [i.e. the king] non meno allegra che contenta, vedendo cosa così rara, da lei non mai più vista’.10 The two fortresses at the Lido participated too.11 The object of all these efforts was to produce as much noise as possible while proceeding with as much order as possible. At San Nicolò were built a triumphal arch and a loggia. Inside the loggia an altar was constructed where the king kneeled down. There are diverse accounts about the order of the religious rite. Della Croce mentions only some prayers and the blessing, whereas almost all the other authors write that a Te Deum was sung before the prayers: ‘cantandosi da eccellentissimi musici il Te Deum laudamus, et altri lodi’.12 Since the ceremonies at the loggia functioned as the high and turning point of the triumphal entry, their particular importance should have been reflected in the form of the music. The performance of a Te Deum would have been consistent with ceremonial practice for such a solemn occasion. In the Cerimoniali, which record the official version of the event, there is no indication of a Te Deum.13 On 14 July the senate had voted twice on the proceedings at the Lido. In the first version the Te Deum is mentioned explicitly, whereas the decision is formulated vaguely: ‘le debite orationi, appropriate à simil solennità’.14
The Capitoli of the guild of the mercers give a description of the entry and a detailed accounting of its expenditure. The guild’s boat, on which there were a trumpeter and a drummer, was allowed to follow right behind the bucintoro. The Capitoli not only mention a Te Deum, but also refer to the persons who sung it in front of the altar inside the loggia: ‘[...] sua Maestà con la compagnia sopranominata [i.e. doge and signoria] con il Reverendissimo Patriarca di Venetia, et Canonici di San Marco e di Castello, et Musici cantorono il Te Deum laudamus [...]’.15 This implies that the nuncio Filippo Boncompagni did not take part in the rite. The reason was that he felt he had received an affront when he was not permitted to make his entry on the bucintoro. This insult led to further ceremonial refusals during his visit. A confirmation of this occurrence can be found in the writings of foreign diplomats. In his own report, Boncompagni misses out completely the rite at the Lido, and gives the impression the stop has been made only for changing to the bucintoro.16 Della Croce describes what happened when the bucintoro cast off after the doge, signoria, king and entourage had entered it: ‘movendosi il Bucintoro diedero nelle trombe, e tamburi, e nel levarsi dal Lido quivi li Castelli, tutte le Galee, Fuste, Bregantini, Palaschermi, e barche armate fecero cosi stupenda, et maravigliosa salva d’artiglieria, d’archibugi, e moschetti, con tanta corrispondenza in un’istesso tempo, che per tremendo strepito pareva ogni cosa ruinasse, e cadesse […]’.17 Similar words are used by Benedetti: ‘un ribombo d’artegliaria che pareva si aprisse il cielo’.18
The bucintoro headed towards the city, and the boats anchored at the shore fired gun salutes. While it passed by the doge’s palace there was raised a ‘generale salva, raddoppiò talmente il strepito, che commosse l’acque pareva, che ogni cosa tremasse, che venisse a terra continuando sempre tale ribombo in molti luoghi per mare, e per terra, dov’erano state poste di molte codete, e particolarmente alle parocchie, e monasterii per dove passavano, con rumore di tambori, e suono di trombe, e piffari sopra li vascelli’.19 The particular significance of the Piazza San Marco as a political and ritual centre is emphasized by Benedetti: ‘Si sparorono in piazza molti pezzi, sonavansi trombe, piffari, e tamburi su le galee, e bergantini, sonavansi le campane di San Marco, e per tutti i campanili della città, e da per tutto ogn’uno applaudeva, che certo non s’udì (credo) maggior strepito nella giornata navale, ne in altro trionfo maggior applauso’.20 Porcacchi points out that the intensity of the firing of the diverse guns was such that nothing else could be heard, neither bells nor trumpeters nor drummers.21 Moreover, he states that already, while passing the Rio di San Domenico and the Canal dell’Arsenale, the artillery fire increased to a ‘horribil rimbombo’ (terrific thundering).22 There were salutes from all directions, all places and all ships at the same time until they reached the Canal Grande at the Dogana. Lucangeli mentions that as a breathing space for the pipers a dialogue between Nais and Hospes was sung aboard the bucintoro.23 During the passage in the Canal Grande, gun salutes were fired from the places in front of Santa Maria del Giglio, San Vito, Santa Maria della Carità and San Samuele.24 The arrival of the bucintoro at Cà Foscari, which had been prepared as accommodation for the king, was again accompanied by artillery fire, drums, trumpets and pipes.25 The palazzo in the turn of the Canal Grande represented the last stop on the triumphal entry, and doge and signoria took their leave of Henry. The bells of all churches rang on three successive days until midnight – as a sign of greatest joy.26
Despite the bells, it was obviously possible to give excellent concerts in front of Cà Foscari: ‘si facevano da Musici concerti singularissimi, onde ci pareva d’essere in Paradiso’.27 These concerts were organized by the signoria in honour of the king every evening at 10 p.m.28 The allusion, ‘in lode della maestà sua’ (in praise of His Majesty), suggests that there was not only instrumental music but also singing. The documents do not make a precise distinction between musicians and singers. Usually musicians mastered an instrument as well as singing. Many listeners in gondolas attended the concerts.29
The costs of musical performances
After the departure of the king, the French ambassador at Venice, Arnould Duferrier, made gifts of money in the name of Henry. Eighteen trumpeters received ninety escuz; twenty drummers one hundred escuz; seven pipers thirty escuz; the players of the silver trumpets fifteen escuz; and the organists and singers of the chapel of San Marco one hundred escuz between them. The sums are quite high and express the king’s esteem for these performances. In comparison, three hundred escuz were given to Luigi Foscari, the owner of the palazzo where the king was accommodated; five hundred escuz were put at the disposal of charitable institutions. The crew of the bucintoro received two hundred escuz between them: one hundred for almost four hundred rowers and one hundred for the admiral.30 Henry had also engaged a singing couple and paid them generously: ‘A la Marthe Thudesque, et à son mary qui ont esté mandés deux fois pour chanter et sonner du luth et de la viole quarante escuz, cy 40’.31 As a second comparison, Tintoretto received fifty escuz for three portraits commissioned by the king. The signoria spent for ‘musiche’ three hundred and ninety-two ducati and fifteen grossi. A comparable sum, three hundred and eighty-seven ducati and twenty grossi, was paid for sixty servants.32
The Significance of the Individual Acoustic Features
Salvos of artillery, rifles and small cannon accompanied the king on his way through the city during the entire visit: ‘si sparassero per dovunque passasse molti pezzi d’artegliaria’.33 These gun salutes were fired in honour of the guest and as a sign of joy of the host: ‘in segno d’allegrezza fu fatta salva d’artiglierie […] et qui con molto maggior ribombo d’artiglierie fu fatto nuovo segno di festa, et di trionfo’.34 Moreover, they made an important contribution to the onomatopoeic setting of the festivities. The principle was that the louder it sounds, the more festive it will be. This ‘loud’ joy creates a divine context by alluding to the heavenly thunder: ‘[…] fra tanto i soliti segni d’allegrezza […] andavano con grandissimo rimbombo al Cielo’.35 In the festival reports, 10 different terms can be found for describing the volume of noise alone – a sign of the exceptional significance of this category.36 The ability to produce an extreme volume lends divine legitimation to the act involved.37 In this context, noise – devoid of any negative connotations – signifies power. It must always be integrated into the context of a public order to achieve its political and legitimizing effect. Therefore all documents refer to the observed order. The perfect combination of both components evoked the king’s enthusiasm and might convince him of the power of Venice. Furthermore, noise demonstrated military strength because it was produced by arms. Henry’s extended visit to the Arsenal served the same purpose. However his visit to the armoury in the doge’s palace had more a representative nature. Everywhere the king arrived or left, salvos rendered his presence public. A look at the official route taken within the city not only shows an almost complete circle of the lagoon, but also marks the most significant places of Venetian representation of power: San Marco and San Nicolò as ritual centres, the doge’s palace as political and the arsenal as military centres. In these places the already high volume of noise was further increased. It should be noted that the noise may not have been so great as reported but may have been magnified in people’s imaginations because noise was a topos for power and splendour – the perception of the spectators is important.
Bells functioned as another sign of power. Their chiming was an expression of joy and helped to increase the volume of noise. The prime function of the bells, often accompanied by trumpets, was to control public life. They regulated ritual and political life by announcing council meetings and masses, accompanying processions etc. The bells of San Marco, the state church, were a particularly essential part of state symbolism. Each bell of the campanile had its separate function and was used only on particular occasions.
There was a long tradition of trumpets as a sign of power. Since classical antiquity they had been used as insignia by emperors and princes and were bound to titles. Trumpets achieved their legitimizing effect more especially in combination with flags, i.e. a visual sign supported an acoustic one. The flags could be carried ahead, or the colours of the ruler were attached as a pennant to the trumpet.38 The trumpeters, who were escorting Henry, wore his livery, and the coat of arms of the Valois was fastened on the instruments. Apart from ceremonies, the trumpet was used principally for military signals, because of the volume that it can reach. In both cases its official character was crucial. The trumpeters, who were serving the king, not only announced his presence but also communicated his claim to power – to the French throne, not to Venice. Trumpets were an indispensable component in the representation of power. The silver trumpets which were carried before the doge during his andate publiche (public progresses) were viewed as special insignia; they were part of the trionfi39 which were given to Venice by Pope Alexander III in 1177. Trumpets could be accompanied by drums and pipes. The signoria let Henry have at his disposal as well an appropriate number of drummers wearing the royal livery.
d. Te Deum
The Te Deum is the most solemn of the Christian hymns of praise. It could be regarded as a form of acclamation by the clergy. Sometimes the singing was accompanied by an organ, which was used as an instrument of acclamation in the ceremonials of the Byzantine emperors.40 The Te Deum was performed only on particular festive occasions. Therefore it had an essential significance concerning the ritual acts at San Marco and San Nicolò – the central sites of Venetian state symbolism. The Te Deum had legal effect: the individual or group singing accepts the claims to power being made. A refusal to join the singing was meaningful. Evidently, Boncompagni considered the Te Deum at the Lido rather an acclamation of Venetian claims to power than a tribute to Henry, and therefore committed a breach of ceremonial.
The sound of the concerts, given in honour of Henry, is always characterized as ‘dolce’ (sweet) and ‘soave’ (gentle). The sweetness of music and singing is a topos pointing to the heavenly sphere. It evokes a quasi-divine character of music which becomes intensified when combined with the appropriate use of illumination. In the festival reports the comparison with paradise is mentionedexplicitly. The prime aim of music is to represent harmony and order. The documents quote ‘concenti divini’ (divine harmonies). The music functions as a reflection of the state order that pursues the ideal of a ‘buon governo’ (good government). These efforts imply again the way to divine climes: ‘[...] la Musica è armonia, che quanto piu puo si va con la soavità conformando alla celeste’.41 The musical expenditure effected in the course of the celebrations shows the high degree of esteem for the guest. Therefore the extravagant floating stage decorations, the number of the persons involved and their costumes are described in detail. Any kind of musical performance is a tribute to the guest, but newly composed works increase the degree of honour. In addition to Claudio Merulo and Gioseffo Zarlino,42 Andrea Gabrieli also wrote festival music for Henry’s visit. He composed two madrigals which were probably sung on the floating stage in front of Cà Foscari: Hor che nel suo bel seno for 8 voices and Ecco Vinegia bella for 12 voices. Of the music composed for Henry’s visit, only these two works survive. In Ecco Vinegia bella the king is celebrated as Hercules who is returning to his sister Vinegia (i.e. Venice). She is asked to welcome him honourably with the traditional acoustic signs of joy:
Così tu spiega le tue pomp’e’n mille Modi, e col dolce suon, co’l dolce canto
Col ribombar di squille E co’l tuonar de cavi bronzi [...].43
The signoria followed the traditional ceremonial concerning the acoustic and musical performances: ‘[…] in ogni luogo, ove il Re arrivava, fossero suonate campane, trombe, tamburi, et tirate artiglierie’.44 So Henry’s visit can be seen as an incessant acclamation in which the signoria, clergy, foreign princes and ambassadors and the applauding audience in the city participated. The via triumphalis, which was prepared for the king in Venice, represents an important part of the via triumphalis to Paris. The ceremonial acts in Venice served as the first step to the enthronement. As a second effect, they improved the reputation of Venice because by honouring the guest the degree of honour of the host was increased. The music was of crucial importance within the display of pageantry and self-glorification. In this context the function of San Marco as a state church and its chapel as an institution for the production of state music has to be emphasized. In the course of the sixteenth century, the chapel’s fostering of musicians and singers steadily expanded, and it developed into one of the most important musical centres in Europe. The maestri di cappella were drawn from the most reputable personalities of the time. The increasing integration of music into state symbolism and ritual acts went simultaneously with an augmented production of pictures and the architectonic remodelling of the Piazza San Marco. All these artistic efforts pursued only one aim: the promotion and passing on of the Venetian myth and therefore a strengthening of Venice’s position of power.
Evelyn Korsch graduated from Bonn University with an MA in History and Literary Studies. She is currently working towards a PhD in Early Modern History at Zürich University, the working title of which is ‘The image of Venice in the 16th century – the entry of Henry III into Venice in 1574 as a communication system.’ Evelyn teaches at Venice University. E-mail: email@example.com