THE WAR OF CHIOGGIA

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Background

.Cyprus - In January 1369 Peter I, King of Cyprus was assassinated in his palace at Famagusta. He was succeeded by his 14 year old son Peter II. Due to the new King’s young age the coronation ceremony was postponed for 2 years and was held in January 1372. As Peter was formally also king of Jerusalem he received the crown of Jerusalem too in October 1372. During the coronation ceremony held in Famagusta, the Genoese Consul Paganino Doria and the Venetian “Bailo” Marino Malipiero had an argument over precedence. During the banquet after the ceremony the dispute turned into a fight between Venetians and Genoese representatives; in Cyprus the Venetians were much more popular than the Genoese and therefore the Cypriot authorities sided with the Venetians and put the blame of the fight on the Genoese; eventually the Venetians, aided by the Cypriots, managed to subdue the Genoese, killed a few of them and threw some others out of a palace window. In a few hours the fight turned into a “Genoese citizen hunt” in the whole town of Famagusta and the Genoese district was looted and pillaged, their warehouses burned down. As soon as the news spread, the Republic of Genoa armed a fleet of 42 galleys with 14000 men that sailed to Cyprus, occupied the town Nicosia and then besieged, conquered and looted Famagusta. Eventually Cyprus was given back to the king Peter II against an annual tax of 40.000 florins and a war bonus of 2 million golden florins. A few Genoese garrisons stayed in the island and Cyprus remained under the firm control of the Republic of Genoa. Cyprus was a key area for both Venice and Genoa for control over the Mediterranean and such sudden reversal of supremacy was already enough to call for a new war even though the Genoese did not try to evict the Venetians from the island. At any rate, the war was delayed for about 5 years due to an abrupt turn of events in Constantinople.

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Tenedo The Emperor of Constatinople, John V Palaiologos, had lost Adrianople and most of Thrace to the Ottoman Empire. In 1369 he travelled to the West and turned to Pope Urban V and then to the Republic of Venice In an attempt to get financial and military support.

John V Palaiologos

John V Palaiologos

Before the Pope, he even acknowledged papal supremacy over the Patriarchate. He then turned to Venice for help but was actually imprisoned for insolvency in 1370, as he still owed the Republic a large sum of money. He was then released after his son Manuel had sent the crown jewels to Venice to bail him out. Still his debts to Venice were not fully paid up, therefore the Republic asked him to surrender Tenedo (modern day Bozcaada), a little island in the northern Aegean sea. Tenedo was strategically extremely important as, located at the gateway of the Black Sea, south of the Dardanelles, could be used to control the entrance to the Straits and the Sea of Marmara. Having lost supremacy in Cyprus, Venice could not afford to let the Genoese take Tenedo and thus control Venetian trade in the Black Sea. Venice was so keen on getting Tenedo that offered to forgive John V all his debts, return the crown jewels and even pay him the amount of about 25.000 ducats. John accepted but then in 1374 he found out that his son Andronikos was scheaming against him in an attempt to usurp his throne. The emperor had already killed 3 of his own sons, in this case he wanted to show some mercy, therefore he decided to dazzle Andronikos’ eyes and confine him in the nearby town of Pera, ruled by the Genoese.

The Genoese of Pera saw an opportunity to strengthen their own position: they planned to unthrone John V Palaiologos and replace him with his son AndronikosIn order to do so they

Andronikos IV Palaiologos

Andronikos IV

healed Andronikos, who regained his eyesight, and promised him to help him gain the throne on condition that he would yield Tenedo to them; according to the terms of their agreement, Andronicos, once emperor, would also have accepted a few Genoese noblemen as his personal advisors. In August 1376 the Genoese managed to break into the emperor Palace, subdue the guards and make John V prisoner. The Genoese then went to Tenedo to take possession of the island but the Governor and soldiers of the fortress were loyal to John V, rejected the Genoese and eventually preferred to turn Tenedo over to the Venetians. The Venetians immediately sent a fleet of 14 warships captained by Marco Giustinian to take over the island. As soon as Andronikos and the Genoese knew that Tenedo was being held by the Venetians, they attacked and pillaged one Venetian merchant ship and imprisoned the Bailo and the crew.

The Republic of Genoa sent also a fleet of 10 galleys captained by Arone De Struppa in November 1377; they attacked and bombed the fortress but were fought off by the Venetian army.

At that point war seemed inevitable. Initially Venice tried to come to terms through diplomatic channels but then in 1378 Jonh Paleologios, managed to regain power with the aid of the Turks; he immediately granted special favorable terms to the Venetians and so the Republic of Venice felt more confident and prepared for war against Genoa.

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Allies

Genoa’s allies:

  • the King of Hungary, Louis I:
  • Francesco da Carrara, Lord of Padua He had long been a bitter enemy of Venice especially over the possessions of the precious salt mines near Chioggia and access to the sea.
  • The Patriarch of Aquileia
  • Leopold III, the Duke of Austria

Venice’s allies:

  • Bernabò Visconti, Lord of Milan
  • John V Palaiologos, Emperor of Byzantium

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Battle of Cape d'Anzio (May 30, 1378)

Vettor Pisani

Venice armed 14 galleys and appointed Vettor Pisani as captain. Pisani was ordered to sail to the Tyrrhenian Sea and pillage the Genoese coast. In the meantime 10 Genoese warships captained by Luigi Dal Fiesco were sailing from Genoa to Costantinople to supply their comrade galleys; as soon as Dal Fiesco knew that Pisani was seizing any Genoese ships that came across, he decided to confront the Venetian fleet. In July 1378 the two fleets met off Cape D’Anzio, close to the Tiber river, close to Rome, in a furious storm. Pisani won the battle, took 6 Genoese galleys and returned to Venice with captain Dal Fiesco himself as prisoner. The other 4 Genoese galleys fled to Cyprus.

After knowing about the defeat of Cape D’Anzio, the Republic of Genoa, armed a fleet of 24 galleys captained by Luciano Doria, who entered the Adriatic Sea and docked in Trau. Pisani was fighting in Famagusta (Cyprus) trying to chase out the Genoese garrisons, but set sail to Trau as soon as he was told about Doria. Pisani besieged the port of Traù but could not take it, therefore withdrew to Pola.

Luciano Doria, after pillaging Rovigno, Caorle and Grado, came across 3 Venetian merchant ships loaded with wheat, escorted by 6 galleys: Doria engaged them in combat and took all the vessels.

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Battle of Pola (May 7, 1379)

Luciano Doria dies in combat

Luciano Doria dies in combat

In May 1379 Luciano Doria’s fleet of 24 galley arrived in Pola where Pisani had landed to repair his ships and let his crews rest. 

Apparently Pisani did not want to engage in combat as he thought he was outnumbered and his crew was too weak to fight, but a commissioner of the Senate who had a higher rank, forced him to do so. 

The Genoese won the battle, killed 700 Venetians, made 2400 prisoner and took 15 galleys but their captain Luciano Doria died in combat.

The Genoese beheaded 800 prisoners in revenge.

Pisani fled back to Venice with 7 galleys and tried to explain to the Senate how and why he had lost the battle but was found guilty and sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for the failure of his strategy.

The defeat of Pola was particularly serious for Venice that in the meantime was also being attacked from the mainland by Francesco Da Carrara (Lord of Padua) and the Hungarian army.

Meanwhile The Republic of Genoa sent to the Gulf of Venice another fleet of 47 galleys, captained by Pietro Doria (brother of Luciano), of which 16 galleys stormed Rovigno, Grado and Caorle. They also came across a Venetian ship loaded with cotton, close to Malamocco. Three Genoese galleys followed it and seized it in Malamocco where the Venetian crew had disembarked for their lives. The Genoese burned the merchant ship on the Lido which was a major outrage for the Venetians who had to endure the sight of the enemy’s triumph at their doorstep. The Genoese fleet then stormed Pellestrina and eventually reached Chioggia.

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Battle of Chioggia (August 1379–June 1380)

Pietro Doria’s plan was to conquer Chioggia, join with his allies in the mainland (the army of Francesco Da Carrara, Lord of Padua) and then besiege and starve Venice into submission. Pietro Doria arrived in Chioggia on August 6th, joined forces with the Lord of Padua and quickly conquered Chioggia Minor (Clodia Minor). The joint army then besieged Chioggia Major that fell on August 16th.

The Venetians suffered 860 casualties and 3800 men were captured.

Meanwhile the Hungarian army were besieging Treviso and threatening the north end of the lagoon.

The Senate of Venice, seeing the Republic attacked from all sides, tried to come to terms with the enemies through diplomatic channels and sent 3 ambassadors to Chioggia to negotiate peace with the Francesco Da Carrara (Lord of Padua) and Pietro Doria. The ambassadors gave them a blank sheet and told them to write down whatever conditions they wished to be met as Venice was willing to accept any term as long as peace would be reached. They also brought with them seven Genoese prisoners as a token of their good intentions. The Lord of Padua was willing to come to terms but Pietro Doria replied: you will never have peace neither from the Lord of Padua nor from Genoa, before we put the bridle to those wild horses of yours in St. Mark’s Cathedral. Once we have braked them we’ll leave you alone. This is what we intend to do. Regarding these Genoese brothers you have brought with you to release them to us, I do not want them. Take them back with you as in a few days I intend to take them from your prison together with the others”.

The Republic of Venice was outraged at such disrespect and started to prepare for war: the port of Venice was protected with two wooden bastions equipped with cannons and guarded by crossbowmen. Access to the port was closed with three big iron chains between the bastions and three fully armed large warships. 40 new warships were built in the Arsenal; additional galleys were provided by private citizens; the Eastern fleet captained by Carlo Zeno was called back to Venice.

Carlo Zeno

Carlo Zeno

Given the state of emergency Vittor Pisani was released from prison and appointed as leader of the war operations as he was considered to be the most charismatic leader both by the government and the people. Releasing Pisani was the right choice, sailors, oarsmen and soldiers were enthusiastic at his release and queued up to get enlisted.

Forcible collection of money was implemented and even the clergy was invited to join the army.

By December 1379 Venice was ready for war. On the night of Dec. 21st a fleet of 39 galleys, led by the 80 years old Doge Andrea Contarini, set sail to Chioggia. At the same time 4000 Venetian soldiers besieged Chioggia Minor from the mainland, they were rejected but this was more of a diversion as in the meantime the Venetian fleet arrived in Chioggia and occupied the mouth of the port; then about 5000 men disembarked on the shore of Chioggia Minor and started to build a fort.

The fort was not yet finished that the Genoese attacked and rejected them back to their ships. One large Venetian ship was anchored across the entrance of the port. 7 Genoese galleys attacked, took the warship and then set fire to it. Shortly after the warship sank, obstructing part of the entrance of the port. A little later the Venetian fleet returned to the port and voluntarily sank more ships across the port entrance thus closing the Genoese fleet inside the port. Some historians believe that this episode gave the Venetians the idea of blocking all the other possible exits to sea; other historians believe that the Venetians had it all planned in advance and they actually towed a few ships laden with stones all the way from Venice to Chioggia.

The second main exit to open sea for the Genoese was the port of Brondolo on the river Brenta but the Genoese ships arrived too late: Pisani had already sunk a few ships laden with stones to obstruct the way to the lagoon.

Meanwhile on the other side of Chioggia, Barbarigo with his fleet of smaller boats obstructed all the others navigable channels that led from Chioggia to the mainland thus blocking the allied force reinforcement and supply way to Chioggia.

In a few hours the Republic of Venice had managed to turn the besiegers into the besieged.

The Genoese saw no point in trying to fight from inside the port as Contarini’s fleet was watchfully patrolling the area.

Doria then decided to occupy and arm with bombards the Monastery of Brondolo that was located close to the blocked canals patrolled by the Venetian land-army as that was the weakest point in the blockade.

Then he sent 15 galleys along the narrow canal to the port of Brondolo.

The Venetians though, had already installed a battery of 22 bombards on the other side and more cannons on the forecastles of their galleys from where they hammered both the Monastery and the Genoese galleys in the canal that were trying to remove the sunken wrecks.

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On January 1st the long awaited Carlo Zeno arrived in the lagoon with a fleet of 18 warships and provisions. He sailed to Brondolo, the more vulnerable blockade, and after a couple of days managed to take the local stronghold, the so called Tower of Londo, thus opening the way for reinforcements and supplies along the river Adige from Venice’s alley the Duke of Ferrara.

On January 6th a Venetian cannon destroyed the belltower of the monastery. Pietro Doria was hit in the head by falling debris and died. Doria was replaced by Napoleone Grimaldi.

Grimaldi began to dig a new canal that would pass by the monastery and to link Chioggia Minor to the open sea, but the Venetians decided to attack the Monastery: Zeno led 14 galleys to Brondolo, 8000 Venetian soldiers disembarked and destroyed the excavation works done by the Genoese. Meanwhile Pisani was protecting the passage of more Venetian soldiers from Malamocco to Chioggia Minor on a temporary bridge created with beams that linked the sunken ships in order to then attack Chioggia Minor.

On February 19th 1380 the Venetian army decided to attack; the fiercest combats took place along the coast and by the wooden bridge between Chioggia Minor and Chioggia. Meanwhile Zeno’s 14 galleys were fighting against 10 Genoese galleys, but the space in the canal was so limited that the ships had to fight one by one at the time. Grimaldi decided to leave the monastery of Brondolo as soon as he knew that Chioggia Minor was being attacked.

By the bridge the battle was very violent: 3500 people died, eventually the Venetians managed to prevail and made 500 soldiers prisoner. They could not penetrate in Chioggia town though, as the bridge was wrecked, but Brondolo was back in Venetian hands. The Genoese found themselves totally surrounded with no access to supplies and provisions – a reinforcement fleet of 39 galleys captained by Matteo Maruffo arrived from Genoa on May 14 but could not force the other blockades in the inlets of the lagoon. The Genoese withdraw in Chioggia but a pestilence soon broke out and lashed the besieged Genoese. Some of them were so desperate that they brought down the beams of the roofs of the houses to make rafts and escape but it was easy for the Venetians to spot and take them.

Doge Contarini returns victorious

Doge Contarini returns victorious

Venice rejected all peace negotiations requested by Spinoza to avenge the insult received from Doria a few months earlier.

On June 22nd Carlo Zeno entered Chioggia with his army and made the whole Genoese garrison prisoner: 4200 Genoese and 300 Paudans + 19 warships. On June 24 the Genoese / Paduan land garrisons also surrendered apart from the garrison of Ambrogio Doria who decided to fight to death, barricaded in the Tower of Bebe.