Gritti, Andrea (1455–1538)

views updated

Gritti, Andrea (14551538)

The Doge of Venice from 1523 to 1538, Gritti was born in Bardolino, a town near Verona, and traveled widely in Europe as part of his education. He lived for a time in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, where he made his living as a merchant and served as a representative of the merchants and traders from western Europe who were doing business with the Turks. He first served the Venetian Republic as an envoy to Sultan Beyezid. At this time the Ottoman Empire and Venice were vying for control of ports and trade in the eastern Mediterranean. The conflict worsened in 1499, when Gritti was arrested on charges of spying. He was imprisoned for several years and, thanks to his acquaintance with the sultan, narrowly escaped execution. After returning to Italy, he became the podesta (mayor and governor) of the city of Padua. In 1509, shortly after Venice lost the Battle of Agnadello against the armies of the pope and the League of Cambrai, Gritti was given command of the Venetian army.

Gritti's great skill both as diplomat and military strategist earned him election to the post of doge in 1523. A forceful personality, who ruled Venice much as a feudal lord rules his private domains, he was determined to make the republic influential and indispensable in the political affairs of Europe. He also embellished Venice with skilled musicians, artists, and architects, and hired renowned scholars and humanists, including Pietro Bembo, to serve the city. Venice and Emperor Charles V concluded an important peace agreement during Gritti's term, but Gritti failed in his efforts to unite Charles, the king of France, and Venice against the Ottoman Empire, which would soon eclipse Venice in Greece and the Mediterranean.