It starts with the terrible floods of 1966, an "annus horribilis" for the city of Doges. The Piazza San Marco is buried under 1.50 meters of water. Unheard. The disaster is history, oh so damaging to the lagoon city-fragile-hit in its pile foundations and most famous monuments. The Basilica della Salute was built by 1630 to pay homage to the Virgin after the outbreak of plague (one third of Venetians died) suffered considerable damage, starting with the beautiful statuary in shambles. A sign indicating the entrance: "Beware of falling angels." Hopelessness and helplessness.
The phenomenon of the acqua alta has taken alarming proportions here: the doom of Venice furniture minds. Maurice Barres, in the early twentieth century, announced:
"And the waves crashing in orchestrating the eternal theme of death in Venice of excessive love of life."
That Unesco, although it took, which triggered the mobilization of States committed to the survival of the lagoon city, born of water, threatened with burial. France, in the person of Gaston Palewski, one of the first companions of De Gaulle in London, former ambassador to Rome, in love with Italy and Venice, set up the first Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice, a private association responsible raise funds in order to restore first the Basilica della Salute. A monumental work, completed by local architects, a great initiative to the credit of the patrons who have helped, and France, mother of the arts.
The will of France
In the vaporetto that leads to Piazza San Marco, the Accademia, Jerome Francis Zieseniss, a French historian specializing in the fate of Napoleon, he wrote a biography of Marshal Berthier noticed suggests a Parisian-legged white s 'Salute to exclaim: "Oh, I know it's a church that belongs to France!" To Zieseniss, something is gained: Palewski Gaston has pulled it off, and France, thanks to this spectacular renovation, has will be withdrawn, profit and glory. There was an example to follow, "said the historian, concerned with Venice, a masterpiece in peril.
Through the ambassador to Italy, Gerard Gaussen Zieseniss Jerome Francis, who had a crush on the Serenissima at the age of 18 years (he lives in a beautiful palazzo Sestier (Ward) Dorsoduro) is appointed in 1999 President of the French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice, in charge of looking for funds destined for public buildings. And there is much to do, the list of endangered monuments is impressive.
"France is the only major country to have roots in Venice, a common history embodied by the Napoleonic Wing of Piazza San Marco, the former royal palace in 1807, built in six years under the responsibility of the Vice- Eugene de Beauharnais King instead of the church Sansovino destroyed for modernization of the lagoon city-it was the wish of the Emperor, long hated by the Venetians. "
The royal palace was transformed into the Correr Museum in 1922, named after a Venetian nobleman and philanthropist, art collector, by imposing neoclassical architecture, the museum has become one of "the city and the Venetian civilization."
For the new president of the French, the restoration of the former royal palace is the first project, the only one who can motivate a club patrons in metropolitan France and elsewhere, the only reason a charity in depth. No better location in Venice: in front of the Basilica San Marco. Visibility ideal.
In three years, the entrance portico, the magnificent marble staircase, the ballroom, the lobby, the Throne Room will be restored to 2.5 million euros. This is not a luxury but a necessity: the biting weather, climate and humidity have caused enormous damage. This is just the beginning: in 2004, there were thirteen pieces to restore, all occupied by administrative offices of the lagoon city is Procuratie are running around the Piazza San Marco
Three years of work to
It was not easy to dislodge officials mired in the humdrum of amenities. Luckily, Renata Codello, Superintendent of Monuments of Venice, the most powerful woman in the city, defends the project of the French: it was noticed that he was returning to the Venetian one of its main attractions it for the neo-Corinthian church. And then, the quadra Zieseniss, skilled diplomat, managed to raise funds from sponsors, individuals and societies, very committed to the preservation of the major sites of the city dear Byron, Proust and Hemingway. Venice, here and there, is the subject of an almost religious cult. On the French model, Americans have set up a committee: "Save Venice".
Of the twenty million tourists, according to the "mayor Giorgio Orsoni, who walk the bridges, churches, docks, squares, blocks and hotels in the peninsula with dozens of channels, the French hold the upper hand - not only for the Carnival, the winter. Note that since the restoration of the Correr Museum and its pictorial beauty, architectural, historical, heading the 150,000 annual visitors has been reached. He must also know that a core of French people of all backgrounds have taken up residence in the lagoon city, some of whom are loyal donors of the Committee, as Chantal Mrieux. Others such as James Pourtales Countess, the Count Florian Colonna Walewski, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Gradis industrialist Henry Hermand, designer Matteo Corvino support activities to safeguard it to harvest 2.5 million euros complete the restoration program Correr Museum and the memory of the Emperor. No nothing.
The method used by Jerome Francis Zieseniss is to "offer" every room of the former palace in one or more donors, from 150,000 to 250,000 euros, their unit name on a plaque. An appreciation for the ego.
Thus, the World Monuments Fund, based in Paris, the Florence Gould Foundation, LVMH, the Foundation Napoleon, in addition to private sponsors finance the second part of the renovations. Three years of work in sight.
For Jerome Francis Zieseniss, the soul of the Committee, is the work of his life dedicated to Venice to Napoleon. At Sotheby's in New York, he redeems in 2008 by the Committee with a splendid statue of the Emperor, now in the Correr Museum.