War and Peace - The War for Candia previous_inactive 1/8 next

Candia: technicians and engineers I

Not only in Candia  but in all the Venetian maritime and mainland territories, the 1560s seemed to mark the emergence of a new attitude towards the profession of military engineering, and a different approach towards managing the relationship between military command and technical execution. One of the primary axioms underlying the work of the engineer was continuity, or the idea of a link with tradition. This principle was also highly valued by the Venetian Senate  and the patricians sent to govern the island. As the Senate wrote to the Captain of Candia Paolo Zorzi after Giulio Savorgnan's departure from Candia, 'we have understood the need that this fortress has for an engineer... if it is to be transformed to perfection'1. In his Discorso di Giulio Savorgnan sulle fortificazioni ('Discussion by Giulio Savorgnan on Fortifications') Savorgnan himself hypothesised the strict subordination of technicians to the Venetian nobility: 'the task of fortification should be that of the General Captain... and the office of the engineer is to be supervisor of the building... nor should his role be considered as anything but pure executor'2. A new sense of technical and professional pride is seen in these comments written by Savorgnan (during a brief return to Candia 14 months after his departure), as also revealed in the work of his successor Andrea Nigrisuoli. A great deal of credit should be given to the Captain of the city, Daniele Venier, but the highest honours go to the extraordinary ability of Nigrisuoli, whom Savorgnan says has 'the weight of engineer, and has discharged his duties both with diligence and knowledge of fortification, with which I am very well satisfied.'3 The military engineer stood somewhere between the Venetian patrician, unversed in technical strategy, who reasoned in general terms, and the short-sighted civil engineer. Though the military engineer did not hold decision-making powers - demonstrated by the difficulty in obtaining finances for the works proposed - he turned out to play a decisive role in the preparation of an efficient defense.

1 'habbiamo inteso il bisogno che quella fortezza avrà d'un ingegnere... per essere ridotta a perfezione'
2 'il carico di fortificazione doveria essere del capitano general... et l'officio dell'ingegnere è d'esser soprastante alla fabbrica... né bisogna che l'oppera sua si usi in altro che in essere puro essecutor'
3 'il peso di ingegnero ha fatto il suo officio si in la diligentia come nella scentia della fortificazione ch'io sono rimasto molto sattisfatto'

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Viaggio virtuale tra le fonti storiche veneziane
Rotta: Venezia e il Levante (sec XV - sec XVIII)
© 1996 by the VENIVA consortium