State institutions of the Republic of Venice

The interior of the Sala Maggior Consiglio - painting by Joseph Heintz the Younger

The Republic of Venice had many institutions over the more than a millennium the state existed. The only institution, which existed throughout the life of the Venetian state, was the Doge.

The lack of a formal constitution meant that the institutions of the Venetian republic were often created on an ad-hoc basis, and they often had a wide range of powers: legislative, executive and judicial together.

This page is an attempt to create an overview of the many Venetian state institutions, with links to the relevant sources, to the extent I have translated them.

Please note that the lists below are no complete — see the section Work-in-progress at the end.

Main institutions of the Republic of Venice

Assemblies of the ‘people’


  • The Doge was the head of state. In the earliest times, the Concio chose the doge, who wielded almost absolute power, both civilian and military. Later, the election of the Doge passed to the aristocracy in the Consiglio Maggiore, which gradually limited the powers of the doge, until the role was essentially reduced to a figurehead.
  • The Consiglio del Doge was also called Consiglieri del Doge, the Consiglio Minore, and the Serenissima Signoria. It was first appointed to keep check on the actions of the Doge, who could not act without their approval. Later, as the Signoria, it developed into the closest the Republic of Venice had to an executive.
  • The Consiglio dei Pregadi, or Senato (the Venetian Senate), was initially an informal group of patricians which the doge called to ask for advice in state matters. From 1229 the Consiglio Maggiore took control of this advisory council, and elected sixty members annually, later expanded several times to 120. The Pregadi gradually took over more and more functions from the Consiglio Maggiore, especially in matters of commerce, foreign relations and war, while always formally acting on behalf of the Consiglio Maggiore. It was, with minor changes, a central part of the Venetian political system until the end.
  • The Pien Collegio was the Signoria together with three groups of Savi (Sages) with various charges, such as preparing the agenda for the Pregadi. Within the Pien Collegio were the Savi Grandi, the Savi di Terra Ferma and the Savi agli Ordini.

Honorary positions

  • The Procuratori di San Marco were second only to the Doge in the Venetian hierarchy, but the status of the Procuratori di San Marco was not matched by politically importance. Starting in the 800s, their role was initially the construction and maintenance of the Basilica di San Marco, and later the protection of the property of orphans and the mentally incapacitated, and the proper execution of last wills and testament. Over time the number grew to nine, three procuratori de sopra for the church, three procuratori de citra for the three sestieri north of the Grand Canal, and three procuratori de ultra for the other side. The appointment was for life, like the Doge.
  • The Cavalieri di San Marco were the only chivalric order in Venice. The honorific could be bestowed on patricians by the Maggior Consiglio, and on citizens by the Doge. For patricians, the title was also Cavaliere della stola d’oro.

Courts and law enforcement

  • The Consiglio di Dieci (Council of Ten) oversaw state security and sat a court for the prosecution of crimes against the state and in cases against patricians. It was created in 1310 following the failed Baiamonte Tiepolo conspiracy. It consisted of ten patricians elected by the Consiglio Maggiore for a one-year term. When it sat as a court, there were seventeen judges, as the Doge and his six councillors also participated.
  • The Avogadori de Comùn was an ancient institution, entrusted with many and very diverse competences. The Avogadori served as public prosecutors, as guarantors of the legality of the political and administrative procedures of the Republic of Venice. They also kept the archives of the Consiglio Maggiore and of the Pregadi, and maintained the lists of the members of the other councils. There were three Avogadori, who served initially one year, later 16 months.
  • The Quarantia (Consiglio di XL — Council of Forty) was for most of the history of Venice the civil and criminal court of last resort. However, the Quarantia was established in 1179 with wide-ranging political and economic powers, not unlike the later Pregadi. Many of these powers then passed to the Pregadi and to the Consiglio di Dieci, until only civil and criminal trials remained. In the 1400s the Quarantia was split into three branches: Criminal, Old Civil (Venice and the Dogado) and New Civil (the dominions). The Quarantia adjudicated only cases between cittadini (citizens), while patricians were tried in front of the Consiglio di Dieci.
  • The Inquisitori di Stato (State Inquisitors) were a kind of express court for threats against the safety of the state, and it had broad and largely unchecked powers. The three inquisitors were appointed by the Pregadi and the Consiglio dei Dieci.

Other offices of the Venetian state

These are only the minor offices which are mentioned elsewhere on this site. See the Work-in-progress section at the end for other administrative offices of the Republic of Venice.

Financial offices

  • The Scansadori alle Spese Superflue (or the Provveditori e Revisori sopra la scansazione e regolazione delle spese superflue — literally the “Superintendents and regulators for the avoidance and regulation of superfluous expenses”) inspected the rest of the Venetian state offices to eliminate waste and superfluous expenses.

Administrative offices

Work in progress

Below are lists of other institutions of the Republic of Venice, which are not yet covered above.

Since there were a great many offices of the Venetian state over its millennial history, it is quite likely something is missing. Furthermore, many of these offices have many names, and sometimes they’ve been changing over time.

Main institutions

  • Correttori alle Leggi
  • Conservatori ed Esecutori alle Leggi
  • Soprintendente al Sommario delle Leggi — Compilazione delle Leggi
  • Correttori della promissione ducale — Inquisitori del doge defunto

Judicial offices

  • Auditori vecchi, novi e novissimi
  • Collegio dei XX Savi del Corpo dei XL
  • Collegio dei XII poi XV
  • Corti di Palazzo
    • Giudici del Proprio
    • Giudici al Forestier
    • Giudici di Petizion
    • Giudici dell’Esaminador
    • Giudici del Procurator
    • Giudici del Mobile
  • Giudici del Piovego
  • I Cinque alla PaceAnziani alla Pace
  • Signori di Notte al Criminal
  • Signori di Notte al CivilCapisestieri
  • Consoli dei Mercanti
  • Sopraconsoli dei Mercanti
  • Ufficiali al Cattaver
  • Sopragastaldo
  • Sopra Atti del Sopragastaldo
  • Officiali alle Cazude
  • Collegio dei X poi XX Savi del Corpo del Senato
  • Deputati alla Liberazione dei Banditi

Financial offices

  • Inquisitore sopra le Appuntature
  • Depositario del Banco-Giro
  • Provveditori e Sopraprovveditori sopra Banchi
  • Provveditori, Sopraprovveditori e Collegio alle Biave
  • Provveditori sopra Camere
  • Camerlenghi di Comun
  • Savio Cassier
  • Sopraconti
  • Inquisitorato all’Esazione dei Crediti Pubblici
  • Provveditori sopra Danaro Pubblico
  • Deputati e Aggiunti alla Provvision del Denaro Pubblico
  • Inquisitore sopra Dazi
  • Officiali al Dazio del Vin
  • Provveditori sopra Dazi
  • Revisori e Regolatori dei Dazi
  • Sopraintendenti alle Decime del Clero
  • X Savi sopra le Decime in Rialto
  • Officiali alla Dogana da Mar
  • Officiali all’Estraordinario
  • Dogana da Terra
  • Governatori delle Entrate
    • Revisori e Regolatori delle Entrate Pubbliche in Zecca
    • Deputati e Aggiunto allo Spoglio dei Libri dei Governatori delle Entrate
    • Inquisitori ai Governatori delle Entrate
  • Deputati all’Esazione del Denaro Pubblico e Presidenti sopra le Vendite
  • Provveditori agli Olii
  • Ufficiali al Frumento — Magistrato del Fontego della Farina
  • Provveditori sopra Offici
  • Officiali alle Rason Vecchie e alle Rason Nuove
  • Provveditori al Sal
  • Sindici e Giudici Estraordinari
  • Revisori e Regolatori alla Scrittura
  • Deputati alla Regolazione delle Tariffe Mercantili
  • Ternaria Vecchia
  • Ternaria Nuova
  • Zecca

Administrative offices

  • Savi Esecutori, Collegio, Aggiunto, Inquisitore alle Acque
  • Provveditore all’Adige
    • Deputalo alle Valli Veronesi
    • Aggiunto al Magistrato sopra i Beni Inculti
  • Provveditori all’Armar
    • Pagatori all’Armamento
    • Inquisitori all’Armar
    • Tre sulle Galee dei Condannati
  • Provveditori, Patroni, Inquisitori all’Arsenale, Visdomini alla Tana (prima Uffiziali alla Camera del canevo)
  • Inquisitore alle Arti
  • Provveditori alle Artiglierie
  • Ufficiali alle Beccherie
    • Provveditori alle Beccherie
    • Collegio dei XII e dei V alle Beccherie
  • Provveditori sopra Beni Comunali
  • Provveditori sopra Beni Inculti
  • Provveditore Soprintendente alla Camera dei Confini
  • Censori
  • Provveditori di Comun
  • Consultori in Jure
  • Inquisitori sopra l’Università degli Ebrei
  • Savi all’Eresia
  • Provveditori sopra Feudi
  • Visdomini al Fontico dei Tedeschi
  • Provveditori alle Fortezze
  • Provveditori e Sopraprovveditori alla Giustizia Vecchia
  • Provveditori e Sopraprovveditori alla Giustizia Nuova
  • Provveditori e Sopraprovveditori alle Legna e Boschi
  • V Savi alla Mercanzia
  • Officiali alla Messetteria
  • Presidenti alla Milizia da Mar ed Aggiunto
  • Deputati alle Miniere
  • Tre Provveditori sopra Monasteri
  • Aggiunto sopra Monasteri
  • Provveditori al Bosco del Montello
  • Deputati al Bosco ed alla Valle di Montona
  • Provveditori sopra Ospedali e Luoghi Pii e al Riscatto degli Schiavi
  • Deputati ad Pias Causas
  • Provveditori, Sopraprovveditori e Collegio alle Pompe
  • Provveditori alla Fabbrica del Ponte di Rialto
  • Inquisitori sopra l’Amministrazione dei Pubblici Ruoli
  • Savio alla Scrittura
    • Savio alle Ordinanze
    • Deputati al Militar
  • Esecutori alle Deliberazioni del Senato
  • Riformatori dello Studio di Padova
    • Pubblica Libreria
    • Istoriografo Pubblico
  • Cancelliere Grande
  • Cassiere della Bolla Ducale
  • Segretario alle Voci

Related articles


Boerio, Giuseppe. Dizionario del dialetto veneziano. Venezia : coi tipi di Andrea Santini e figlio, 1829.

Da Mosto, Andrea. L'Archivio di Stato di Venezia : indice generale, storico, descrittivo ed analitico in Bibliothèque des Annales Institutorum, 5. Roma : Biblioteca d'arte, 1937.

Mutinelli, Fabio. Lessico veneto che contiene l'antica fraseologia volgare e forense … / compilato per agevolare la lettura della storia dell'antica Repubblica veneta e lo studio de'documenti a lei relativi. Venezia : co' tipi di Giambatista Andreola, 1851.

Also on this site …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *