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Not to be confused with Alvise Contarini (1597-1651), Venetian diplomat who negotiated the Peace of Westphalia.
Alvise Contarini, photographed by Carlo Ponti, hand-colored

Alvise Contarini (Venice, October 24, 1601 - Venice, January 15, 1684) was the 106th Doge of Venice, reigning from his election on August 26, 1676 until his death seven and a half years later. He was the eighth and final member of the House of Contarini to serve as Doge of Venice (with the first being Domenico I Contarini, who became Doge in 1043).

His reign was largely peaceful, as the Republic of Venice was still recovering from the Cretan War (1645–1669). However, in the last days of Contarini's reign, hostilities with the Ottoman Empire were rekindled, and Venice began its participation in the Seventh Ottoman-Venetian War, better known as the Morean War (1684-1699).

Background, 1601-1676

The third son of Nicolò Contarini and Elena Michiel, Alvise Contarini was a nephew of Francesco Contarini, the 95th Doge of Venice, who had a one-year reign 1623-24. Alvise Contarini never married, dedicating his whole life to public service. He served as Venice's ambassador to France, Spain, the Dutch Republic, and to the Papal court. The King of France granted Contarini the title of chevalier.

During his time as savio, Contarini supported the party in the Great Council that called for a continuation of the war with the Ottoman Empire.

Reign as Doge, 1676-1684

Upon the death of Nicolò Sagredo on August 14, 1676, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would be succeeded as Doge by his popular brother Giovanni Sagredo. Giovanni Sagredo quickly secured the votes of thirty of the forty electors. His opponents, however, believed he had used fraudulent means to do so, and they therefore rioted. Alarmed, the Great Council chose forty new electors, and when these electors met on August 26, 1676, they decided on Alvise Contarini as a compromise candidate.

Most of Contarini's reign as Doge was occupied with festivities and fun, and he made little attempt to exercise strong dogal powers. Contarini did, however, oversee a major judicial reform in the early part of his reign. Many new relics were brought from Crete (now under Ottoman control) and installed in Venetian churches during Contarini's reign.

Several notable firsts occurred in Contarini's reign. On June 25, 1678, Venetian mathematician Elena Cornaro Piscopia became the first woman in the world to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree (from the University of Padua). In a first of a very different sort, Venice's first coffeehouse opened in 1683, and drinking coffee soon became immensely popular.

In terms of foreign policy, these were anxious years for Venice. Venetians watched the progress of the Great Turkish War closely, as Venice's enemy, the Ottoman Empire, conquered territory from the Habsburgs, (including all of the Balkans by 1682) before finally being halted by the forces of John III Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683. Discussions about entering the war on the side of the Habsburgs dominated 1683. Contarini died on January 15, 1684, shortly before Venice decided to enter the war, thus beginning the Morean War (1684-1699).

Alvise Contarini was buried in the Contarini family chapel in the church of San Francesco della Vigna. There is a bust of Alvise Contarini on his tomb.


This article was based on this article on German Wikipedia and this article on Italian Wikipedia.

Preceded by
Nicolò Sagredo
Doge of Venice
1676 – 1684
Succeeded by
Marcantonio Giustinian


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