The Arsenal, or naval dockyard, was the place where the Venetians built the famous workshops in which their powerful military and mercantile fleets were built and for centuries remained the pride and fortune of the Serenissima Republic. The name “Arsenal” seems to be a corruption of the Arabic darsina’a (meaning “house of industry”) from which comes the Italian word darsena. The Arsenal was built on two islands called Gemelle (meaning twins) in the year 1104 and was surrounded by high walls and square towers emblazoned with the symbolic winged lion. In the structure’s busier periods more than 16000 workers were employed there: chronicles from those times tell us that on one occasion a warship was completed in the Arsenal in twelve hours, and that a hundred such vessels were launched there in only two months. It was held in such awe by the rest of Europe that the word “arsenal” was in use in fourteen languages. Over the centuries it was continually enlarged until it attained a considerable size: the entire north-east edge of Venice between the San Pietro di Castello Canal, la Tana, San Martino and San Francesco della Vigna. “It is the repository of the Republic of St. Mark’s naval memories and in it are also preserved relics of the various regional Italian navies up to the last war and is well worth a visit because of the variety and historical and artistic interest of the exhibits.”

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