Attila the Hun and the Foundation of Venice

The Hungarian pavilion in the grounds of the Biennale by the Giardini Pubblici was built in 1909. Its exterior is decorated with mosaics by one of Hungary’s foremost exponents of the Secession, Aladár Kőrösfői Kriesch. They depict Attila the Hun. The one shown here has gold lettering underneath it, reading (in Hungarian): ‘The siege of Aquileia’. Attila attacked the city in AD 452. In Roman times it had been a flourishing trading post. In the early centuries of Christianity it was the seat of a patriarch. The siege was long and the city was well defended. Attila’s men began to be discouraged, and called for hostilities to be abandoned. But then Attila noticed a strange thing–at least, according to legend he did. Flocks of storks were abandoning the city, flying with their young into the countryside. He interpreted this as a sign that Aquileia was a doomed city and redoubled his efforts at conquest. The result was a pitiless sack. The survivors fled across the water to the lonely shoals of an uninhabited lagoon. The settlement they created here would one day become one of the greatest maritime republics the world has ever known. Venice.

2 thoughts on “Attila the Hun and the Foundation of Venice

  1. Lovely though the Hungarian pavilion at the biennale is, the storks are less a fantasy than that the destination of those fleeing was to become Venice. Wrong lagoon. They fled down the Natisone river to a much near island in the much nearer treacherous lagoon – Grado. Other Roman cities were nearer the western lagoon – Altinum and Julia Concordia – and they too were hammered by those uncivilized northerners, until eventually upping stakes and heading for their nearest lagoon and the safe island of Torcello. The rest is history on which I expect the Blue Guides to be expert.

    • Yes, you are quite right. I wanted to show how the Hungarian artist makes the link between Attila and Venice without going into too much detail about who was hammered when by Huns from the east and Lombards from the north but the result is truncated and somewhat misleading. Thank you for pointing it out.

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