Take part in the revival of the historical crafts of the ship carpenters and caulkers of Venice

In a few words:

The squeri da sotìl – brick-pillared shipyards topped by a wooden roof for the building of elegant ships – situated at San Isepo (the local name for St Joseph) are a jewel of history awaiting re-discovery.

In the heart of Castello, one of the six historic districts of Venice, one can still find nineteenth-century tezoni – wooden-roofed structures set on brick pillars for the construction of ships in the Venetian tradition – later modified to meet modern needs and, as a result, almost totally disguising their original, historic structure. 

At the core of this complex and out in the open, were the slipways for the hauling and launching of ships, which are now covered over.

For this reason, it is important to restore the original beauty and features of the squeri, in order to bring back to light the ancient skills of boat and ship carpentry in Venice. This would also give a new lease of life to the entire area of Castello, which is rich in art, history, culture and tradition.

The Project

the Centre for the Study and Enhancement of the Ancient and Traditional Maritime Crafts in Venice

A new life for the squero grando (large shipyard): the aim is to bring it back to its original shape and make it operational, thus affording it the added function of being a teaching laboratory for the nearby nautical schools and an interesting additional to the experience of Venetian culture.

Four Areas For The Enhancement And Development Of The Squeri

The Tezòn Grando

This, the large shipbuilding edifice, a brick structure with a surface area of roughly 200 square metres, will retain its original purpose for building ships.

In consequence, priority will be given to the demand from economic activities having the closest possible link with the lagoon environment.  In other words, activities connected to boats.

The Tezòn of the Crafts – Teaching Laboratory

The teaching laboratory will offer the students of the nearby State Maritime Institutes “Giorgio Cini” and “Sebastiano Venier” the right place where to test their manual skills for the venetian artisan works of “squerariol” (gondolamanbuilder), “remer” (oarmanbuilder) and “forcoler” (oarlockmanbuilder).

The Tezòn of the Crafts – School of Venetian-style Rowing

Venetian-style rowing school will offer any inhabitant and guest of the city the chance to experience the so called “venetian culture of  oar”, even with the possibility to rent a rowing traditional venetian boat.

The Corte dello Squero – Shipbuilding Yard

The little boats’ existing slipway for hauling and launching will be maintained as it is functional to the didactic activity.
The building of a hut will have available a reception room and also a room for a small kitchen, suitable for convivial meetings “venetian-style”.
The waterfront’s edge of the “Corte” will be used for the activities of the venetian-style rowing school and for excursion with rowing traditional venetian boats for hire.

The Objectives

a rebirth of cultural tourism in Castello

Six Targets For The Re-launch Of An Entire Historical District Of Venice

Rebirth of the old squeri and the crafts of carpentry and caulking

The traditions of the shipbuilding squeri are as old as Venice itself, the city being inseparable from its watery environment which requires the use of boats for transport. ‘Barca xe casa’, a boat is home, as Venetians have said for centuries. The etymology of the word squero may be linked to the local word squadra (a square), an essential tool for carpenters.  It is also suggested that squero comes from the Greek word eschárion, i.e. boatyard. 

In the past, Venetians referred to their crafts as ‘Arts’, which were understood to indicate ‘corporations’ in the original medieval meaning of the word.  These were associations legally recognised by the Venetian Republic, and each of them included all workers and operators within the same trade or occupation.  The workers engaged in various tasks in the squeri were called squeraroli, and among these were the carpenters and the caulkers, whose work was hard, and it required precision, so much so that an apprentice needed eight years before qualifying as a ‘master caulker’.

The creation of an important educational centre dedicated to old Venetian crafts

Didactic aspect has the task of generating a virtuous interconnection between the typical Venetian craftsmanship of water and the audience of the potential juvenile apprenticeship represented in first instance by the students of the nearby State Maritime Institutes of “Giorgio Cini” and “Sebastiano Venier”. The technical support is ensured by the workers of the adjacent “squero”, where work is continued both for the ship engine part and for the construction / repair of wooden boats. To these two realities will then be joined “on call” also those of the other artisans linked to the production of boats. Shortly, everything that will be possible to widen the cognitive horizon of new generations.

The rebirth of Fitabatele – boats for hire

An important cultural aspect consists in the reintroduction in the city of the “fitabatele”, that means the possibility for inhabitants and guests to rent a typical Venetian rowing boats to enjoy the experience of sustainable lagoon navigation, or inside the large and unique network of the narrow “rii” (canals). This is also complemented by a learning path and knowledge of the working environment of the Venetian boatyard, the production technique of the different typical wooden boats, their protection and use in the lagoon environment.

The promotion of Venetian-style rowing through courses and events

Social aspect is guaranteed by offering anyone who so desires, the opportunity to learn how to rowing “Venetian-style”, the first step in preparation for an eventually enrollment with one of the many city rowing Societies. This activity adds up to a moderate physical effort, an unusual view of the city from the water, a constant relationship with the environment, a test of one’s degree of skill in leading the boat rowing in the various positions. In addition, of course, to the availability of typical Venetian boats, the presence of qualified technical personnel is guaranteed, in collaboration with the city rowing Societies.

The upgrading of cityscapes

Trust us. Still exists an enchanting Venice, far from the massive invasion of tourists, a Venice that only the Venetians know and that allows you to experience an unique and unrepeatable atmosphere. It is the so-called “minor Venice”, indispensable for understanding the inner city, its history, its landscapes, but above all the authentic people who live there. A heritage of humanity that must be safeguarded, also thinking about the future and the redevelopment of the ancient places of work.

Getting to know the Castello district

The “sestiere” is one of the six areas in which Venice is divided, a partition that dates back to the origins of the city. It roughly corresponds to the “neighborhood” of other cities, which ideally represented the fourth part of the Roman camp, an ideal scheme for the construction of a large number of inhabited centers in Europe.

Particulary, the “sestiere” of “Castello” is the largest of the city and took its name from a fortress, now disappeared, around which the area developed in the early Middle Ages. Of great importance for the history of Venice are the church of Saint Zachary and, to the north,  Saints John and Paul, which houses the tombs of numerous doges and, of course, Saint Peter of Castle, the patriarchal church before Saint Mark. Finally, a large part of Castle’s district is occupied by an area that was of vital importance to the Saint Mark’s Republic: the famous “Arsenal”.


euros to be collected from crowdfunding to get the project started

The Most Important Steps

Estimated net total of € 603,000.00

For the realisation of the project, the total estimated cost is approximately   650,000.00.

By law, the Comune of Venice – the local government and land owner of the Arsenal – bears some responsibility for extraordinary maintenance.

The Tezòn Grando – € 270,000.00

  • Superfection demolition: € 25,000.00

  • Roof covering shed (approx. 255 sqm): € 45,000.00

  • Concrete spout to raise the height of the floor (mq. 224): € 20,000.00

  • Internal masonry works: € 90,000.00

  • Scaffolding works: € 25,000.00

  • Bathrooms, dressing room, showers: € 50,000.00

  • Installations: € 15,000.00

    Total sub “Tézon grando” net of VAT: € 270,000.00

The Tezòn of the Crafts – €191,000.00

  • Roof demolition, internal mezzanine and metal support structures: € 25,000.00

  • Roof covering shed (approx. 255 sqm): € 45,000.00

  • Concrete casting to raise the height of the floor (mq. 196): € 16,000.00

  • Internal masonry works: € 75,000.00

  • Scaffolding works: € 15,000.00

  • Installations: € 15,000.00

    Sub total “Tézon of Crafts” net of VAT: € 191,000.00

The Corte dello Squero, the shipbuilding yard – €142,000.00

  • Roof demolition, internal mezzanine and metal support structures: € 25,000.00

  • Construction of a hut and wood shed (9.00 × 5.00 × 3.5 m), with two rooms: € 80,000.00

  • Concrete casting to raise the height of the floor (mq.168): € 12,000.00

  • Plant (recycling and purification) of boat hull washing waters: € 5,000.00

  • Hauling and launching new crane: € 20,000.00

    Sub full “Corte del squero” net of VAT: € 142,000.00

You can make a donation directly to the project by way of a credit transfer to the following IBAN number, stating its purpose as a “donation”:

Bank IBAN: IT50 D033 5901 6001 0000 0155 070
Post office IBAN: IT64 L076 0102 0000 0001 4055 305

The Mutual Society

150 years of history and traditional craftsmanship

The Society for Mutual Assistance of Carpenters and Caulkers – Società di Mutuo Soccorso fra Carpentieri e Calafati – was founded in Venice in 1867 and it is acknowledged as the oldest of the associations still in existence in the city.

In 2017, the Society celebrated 150 years of activity, making it the proud holder of the title of the oldest association in Venice.

The Society is the moral heir of its forerunners, the old schole picole, the ‘little schools’.  These were devotional, charitable and occupational institutions to which workers and operators in the same craft belonged.  In this case, the various categories of arsenalotti (Arsenal workers) belonged either to the Schola dei Calafai a l’Arsenal (School of Arsenal Caulkers) or to the Schola dei Marangoni da Nave (School of Ship Carpenters). 

The Society’s main activity is mutual assistance for its members, based on a sharing of resources made available by its members through their annual subscription.

The Society’s patron saint is St Phocas (san Foca), who is also the protector of the ancient corporation of caulkers, the Arte dei Calafai de l’Arsenal.


from the time-honoured skills of the Arsenal workers to the church of San Isepo, an experience of saints and boats

The squeri da sotìl at San Isepo, 800 hundred years of history

The historic squeri at San Isepo

Since 1300, small to medium-sized boats were built in the historic district of Castello.

The boatyards there take their name from the nearby church of San Isepo, the Venetian name for St Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary.

The traditional squeri normally consist of an outdoor dirt track which slopes downwards to the water for the launching and hauling of ships, while the actual construction of the vessels took place underneath a teza (a wooden hut or shed supported by brick pillars), which sometimes had an upper floor of workers’ living quarters.

The careful conservation of these now very rare edifices of industrial archaeology with their notable value in terms of ethnography and the environment is of vital importance for historical study and Venice’s very survival – a city of ‘cultural heritage for humanity’.    

Castello, historic district of boats and crafts

Castello is one of the greenest areas of Venice and is famous for being the seat of the imposing Arsenal, the hub of the naval industry of the Saint Marks’s Republic. Still today near the entrance gate one can see four majestic stone lions, which according to legend, in November 1719, came to life during some stormy nights, so as to induce the inhabitants of the Serenissima to believe that the place was magic.

It goes without say that an important industry like the Arsenal, brought with it the need to have in the neighborhoods a series of handicraft services that collaborated to the realization and completion shipowner of the powerful Venetian ships. Here then arise in Castello numerous building sites, both as support for the Arsenal and for the construction of smaller and lighter boats for lagoon navigation.

St. Phocas, patron saint of the Arte dei Calafati

Foca lived in Sinope (Greece), where he lived between the first and second centuries; by profession he used to grow vegetables and he was therefore appreciated and loved by people for his great generosity and hospitality. Of these virtues of his, he was able to give a moving demonstration to the two soldiers who, tired and hungry, one day stopped at his door asking for information about a Christian who lived around there and against whom the death sentence had been pronounced .
The henchmen, who did not know him personally, came from Foca to sit at home, where he asked them to stay for lunch. While the two were refreshing, Foca moved into the inner garden and dug his own grave; at the end he returned back inside home and declared his identity to the soldiers, also asking them not to delay the execution. Legend has it that he was thrown into the grave along with numerous snakes, but that the reptiles refrained from biting him. Unable to grasp the sign of holiness and divine protection, the two soldiers killed him at last with their hands.

Inside Saint Mark’s church San Foca is portrayed on an ancient mosaic, embracing a rudder, the emblematic symbol of the ship but also the metaphor of the steadfastness of the route in faith.

Arzanà, Dante’s praise for the caulkers in his Divine Comedy

Ora siamo in un freddo mattino del 1300. Dante ci accompagna nella quinta bolgia dell’ottavo cerchio e, per farci capire le atroci punizioni riservate ai malversatori, descrive un luogo che gli è rimasto impresso (anche se non è certo che a Venezia ci fosse realmente mai stato). Come d’inverno, quando non si naviga ed è tempo di manutenzione delle navi, la pece viene fatta bollire nell’Arsenale di Venezia, così c’è chi costruisce nuove barche, chi tura con la stoppa le falle, chi ribatte la prua e chi la poppa, chi fabbrica remi e chi sartie, chi rattoppa la piccola vela di terzeruolo e chi la vela maggiore l’artimone.

Quale ne l’arzanà de’ Viniziani
bolle l’inverno la tenace pece
a rimpalmare i legni lor non sani,

ché navicar non ponno – in quella vece
chi fa suo legno novo e chi ristoppa
le coste a quel che più vïaggi fece;

chi ribatte da proda e chi da poppa;
altri fa remi e altri volge sarte;
chi terzeruolo e artimon rintoppa –

(Versi tratti da: Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto ventunesimo)

The initiative’s logo, a tribute to Jacopo de' Barbari

The bird’s-eye perspective view of Jacopo de’ Barbari, made with the xylography technique, describes the city of Venice in detail to the year 1500.

It is precisely this great masterpiece who has inspired the whole communication and the trademark of this initiative, where the “squeri” could already be seeing as still they are today. Given to its complexity, it is believed that the view is the result of a choral work, of various people with specific scientific skills: from relief, to drawing, to carving the woodcut matrix, to the press, coordinated by Anton Kolb, the customer.
Actually the view was taken over three years before 1500, year that has been marked inside the map. In the following decade several changes were made to update it and keep it in the market, as it is confirmed by the few documents preserved.