On 14 September 1423, the feast of the Invention of the Cross, the first Venetian ships reached Thessaloniki amid wide applause. With Byzantium unable to defend itself, the Thessalonians voluntarily came under the rule of the Serenissima, since the Ottoman threat was now more apparent. The Venetian weapons proved insufficient in front of Sultan Murad II’s army, who, after an epic three-day siege, finally occupied the city on March 29, 1430.
The seven-year presence of the Venetians in Thessaloniki is well known and is the starting point of the Exhibition. However, the contacts between the two cities continued and are documented even after the Ottoman conquest. They were intense and multifaceted: economically, educationally, and socially. These contacts are at the core of the exhibition; by following the archival traces of individuals, we underline the common path of our history.
The exhibition unfolds according to three axes: the historical documentation, the presentation of experiences, and the visual imprint. The historical documentation is based on mainly unpublished archival material, coming from the Archive of the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies in Venice and the State Archives of Venice. It includes documents that describe the presence of the Thessalonians in Venice (registrations of baptisms, marriages and deaths) but also their participation in the Greek community of the city: the Greek Orthodox Confraternity. It also presents the variety of those who settled permanently in the city of Venice, focusing on the emblematic portrait of the Archbishop of Dalmatia, Benedict Kralidis. Numerous documents testify the intense commercial relations between Thessaloniki and Venice and the educational pursuits of the young Thessalonians, who came as students to the unique Flangini College.
The exhibition includes works of the Architect – Engineer George G. Bougiouklis, Entreaty. Luca Spandouni’s sepulchre, Thessaloniki under Ottoman occupation (46x61cm), The Greek neighborhood in Venice (46x61cm), The Greek Orthodox temple of St George of the Greeks in Venice (61x46cm), The Macedonian lady (100x85cm) and The merchant (100x85cm).
The work of the artist Alma Bakiaj is also presented under the title: “Once upon a time, I was an Alien of Hellenic Descent; now I’m just an alien” (Installation/ printed watercolours on silky fabric, print on fine art paper Size: 260x150cm, Year: 2021). This work explores the concept of “belonging” and what does it mean to have a double identity or no identity at all.
The experiential approach is completed with the narration of the architect Gherardo degli Azzoni Avogadro Malvasia, Dr. of Art History, a descendant of the Ninni family.
The Thessaloniki-Venice Exhibition: Traces of People, Paths of History is participating in the 1,600 years from the founding of Venice events; after the city of Thessaloniki (from 5.10.2021 until 30.12.2021), the exhibition will travel to Venice in the year 2022.