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Venice: Lion City: The Religion of Empire

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  84 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Garry Wills's Venice: Lion City is a tour de force -- a rich, colorful, and provocative history of the world's most fascinating city in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when it was at the peak of its glory. This was not the city of decadence, carnival, and nostalgia familiar to us from later centuries. It was a ruthless imperial city, with a shrewd commercial base, l ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by Washington Square Press (first published 2001)
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Alex Telander
Little is known of Venice, the city of islands; few know of the tenacious, powerful grasp it once held over all of Italy, including the Papacy. Venice: Lion City makes light of this, focusing on the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when Venice was at its cultural highpoint.

Gary Wills reveals a unique viewpoint here, taken the reader through Venice’s history through the many works of art of the period. Art and painting very much became a way of life for Venetians of this period, and art has an
Not a quick and easy book to read but a very interesting one. I'm not entirely sure that Wills' plan to relay & interpret the history of Venice through its art worked -- book needed more illustraions, particularly larger, color ones.
Points that I'll remember . . . Venice didn't lose its empire because of decadence -- the decline in morality came after its empire was already gone and it lose focus and pride. Religon played a large role in Venice but Venice tried to stay apart from the Pope
Linda Howe Steiger
Learned, well written, documented, and utterly fascinating is Gary Wills' the history of Venice through its art and architecture. I read it almost to the end before making a serious visit to this wonderful city, then upon coming home, kept picking it up for another look at various topical chapters that rouse curiosity as I edit my photos. Reading after the trip deepens and "sets" the experience, and Wills is a good one for this, particularly when it comes to explaining the importance of some of ...more
Finally--I've finished this ambitious history of Venice, a mighty city-state with its vast empire scattered across the waters! I struggled to get through Venice: Lion City but acknowledge I am glad I kept coming back to Wills' study of The Religion of Empire, because I learned a lot of history.

I initially chose to read this history as a result of Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti series--I decided I should know something more of Venice, given that it is such a canvas for her. Really, Venice is o
This is a neat way to relay a city's history, totally through the art. I will say that the pictures themselves are mostly dark black-and-white; the few color photos are splendid. I did appreciate that Wills tried to take a more conversational approach, but his gimmick (relaying history through art) requires loads of reference that kill that idea completely. This would be excellent as a reference, but overall, this book lacks the skill of a storyteller. It often sounds like commentary about art b ...more
Meredith Small
This book is brilliant. Venetians might to might not agree with his thesis that their art reflects the ever present need to make a cooperative State, but Wills support this thesis beautifully. I have seen most of the paintings and sculpture he wrote about, but now I will see them in a different light.
Excellent book for the Venice-bound; describes the Byzantine and Renaissance history of this unique city through its extraordinary art and architecture and explains the contemporary references of the depictions of the saints e.g. portrayals San Rocco and San Sebastian in wounds in the thigh are actually appeals to ward off the plague.
Joe Paulk
Perhaps this isn't Wills's specialty, but it is more likely that I had different expectations. I was thinking it was more of a history book or perhaps a contemporary account. Instead, it is a jumble of art commentary that isn't coherent. The texts value lies in its reference potential.
If you like Venetian Renaissance painting, this is a great way to learn about the city at that time. I read it in preparation for a trip there, and found it informed my visit considerably. You need to really like seeking out the paintings, though.
This is a beautifully conceived and written book about Venice, seen through her art. Because I
have read so many books about Italian history,
and been to Venice twice, this was a very good - and new - perspective for me to look at an
incredible city I love.
One chapter stands out head and shoulders above the rest.

"Chapter Seven: The Doge."

I am sorry but you are going to have to accept this as fact. "The Doge" is perhaps the most thrilling thing I have ever read.
It was pretty interesting, Wills was all about comparing Venice to Athens, and he did it well. But perhaps not the best "introduction" to Venetian history.
Skip this if you're looking for a history of Venice. Maybe read it if you're looking for descriptions of religious art in Venice. Maybe.
Jim Colombo
A detailed look into the corners of the Venetian empire and what made it such a powerful force in its day.
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Garry Wills is an author and historian, and a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. In 1993, he won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, which describes the background and effect of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.

More about Garry Wills...
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