Measures

Measures

MONEY AND COINAGE

The Carolingian Reform established the European monetary system in around 755 CE. The basic denomination was a pound (libra or lira) of pure silver from which 20 shillings or 240 pennies were struck.

1 pound = 20 shillings = 240 pennies
1 shilling = 12 pennies

Venice adopted this system early on and gradually developed two different lire (pounds) – one based on pure and one on impure silver.

The piccolo or penny (plural piccoli), of impure silver, was the base coin in Venice. In most historical texts lira by itself refers usually to the lira di piccoli. It weighed only 0.362 grams and was only 25 percent silver. It was issued in the early 800s and soon became the basic money of account used in retail trade and in setting laborers’ wages. Twelve piccoli constituted a soldo (shilling); twenty soldi constituted the lira di piccolli (lira = libra or pound).

Piccoli

Venice adopted this system early on and gradually developed two different lire (pounds) – one based on pure and one on impure silver.

The piccolo or penny (plural piccoli), of impure silver, was the base coin in Venice. In most historical texts lira by itself refers usually to the lira di piccoli. It weighed only 0.362 grams and was only 25 percent silver. It was issued in the early 800s and soon became the basic money of account used in retail trade and in setting laborers’ wages. Twelve piccoli constituted a soldo (shilling); twenty soldi constituted the lira di piccolli (lira = libra or pound).

1 lira di piccoli = 20 soldi di piccoli = 240 piccoli
1 soldo di piccoli = 12 piccoli

Venice - Coins - Piccolo or Denaro (c. 819)

Grosso

The grosso (groat) was Venice’s larger money of account. It was issued under Doge Enrico Dandolo (1192-1205) to finance Fourth Crusade. It was minted out of 2.18 grams of almost pure silver (0.965) and like the lira di piccoli, also lira di grossi was divided into 20 soldi (di grossi, in this case), each of which was equaled to 12 grossi.

1 lira di grossi = 20 soldi di grossi = 240 grossi
1 soldo di grossi = 12 grossi

Venice - Currency - Grosso or Groat (ca. 1382-1400)

Ducat

The third common denomination minted in Venice was the famous ducat. It can refer either to a money of account or to an actual coin. Either way, its value in the High Renaissance period was pegged at 6 lire, 4 soldi di piccoli. From its first issue in 1284 until the fall of the republic in 1797, the Venetian ducat was kept at 3.5 grams of almost pure gold (0.997 fine). The exchange ratio between silver and gold money fluctuated based on the value of basic metals. During the High Renaissance (c. 1490-1530), the exchange rates were as follows:

1 ducat = 0.1 lira di grossi = 6.4 lire di piccoli
​1 lira di grossi = 10 ducats = 64 lire di piccoli
1 grosso = 64 piccoli

Several other silver coins were in circulation in Venice, with different weights and values. These often bore the name of the doge in whose reign they were introduced and first minted (e.g., tron or marcello).
 

Venice - Coins - Ducat or Zecchino (c. 1400)

Dates & Calendar

According to the Venetian calendar, the new year began on March 1, a dating system usually referred to in Venetian histories as more veneto (Venetian custom), abbreviated as m.v. Thus, for example, February 17, 1508 on the Venetian calendar would be February 17, 1509 on the modern calendar.

HOURS OF THE DAY

The twenty-four-hour clock began near sunset. Thus “two hours” means two hours after sunset. By making adjustments for seasonal differences in the time of sunset, ranging from about 5:00 a.m. at the winter solstice to about 8:00 p.m. at the summer solstice, we can arrive at the equivalent of the modern hours. For example, Marin Sanudo writes that on June 16, 1514 (18:299-300), a party continued until “nine hours, that is, until full daylight.” Since the date was so near the solstice, sunset was calculated as occurring at about 8:00 p.m., and “full daylight” therefore at about 5:00 a.m.

Venice - San Marco - Clock Tower