The Serrata of the Great Council

Towards the end of the 13th century, many of the polities of central and northern Italy came to political settlements to resolve decades of unrest between nobles, merchants, artisans, and the rest of the people. In 1293, Florence passed the "Ordinances of Justice," establishing its guild-centric republican government, while Padua and Ferrara chose monarchical rule. Venice, meanwhile, after the civil consternation that resulted in riots in 1266 and 1275, passed the "Serrata," or Closing, of the Great Council in 1297, generally understood as constitutional legislation that cemented the republican system and defined the families that constituted the ruling class of nobles.

The Great Council itself, created in 1142, held no direct power, but elected members of the nobility to nearly every position within the government. Every senator, ambassador, judge, as well doge himself was chosen by the Council. Originally with only 35 members, the body grew in size into the hundreds and even thousands over the coming centuries along with the population of the noble class.

The Serrata, which closed the Council to those not of the ordained families, has come to be seen more in its historical context, less of a discrete, decisive event – which plays to the mythology of the Venetian Republic, which came to its end 500 years later in 1797 – and more as the cumulative result of a decades-long process that saw the expansion and delineation of the nobility as well as the tempering of the “populo.”





FitzSimmons, A. K. (2013, December). The Political, Economic, and Military Decline of Venice Leading Up to 1797. University of North Texas. Retrieved March 2018, from

Rosch, G. (2000). The Serrata of hte Great Council and Venetian Society, 1286-1323. In J. J. Martin, & D. Romano, Venice Reconsidered: The History and Civilization of an Italian City State, 1297-1797 (pp. 67-88). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

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Sailko, under Creative Commons use, via Wikimedia Commons

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