The Woods of Saint Mark

In the photos that I took from the site Amici del Cansiglio ( Friends of Cansiglio) , we see glimpses of the ancient beech forests of the fifteenth century that greatly contributed to the construction of the oars that served the galleys of the grand fleet Republic of Venice.

It was called the wood of the oars of San Marco, located in the current plateau of the Cansiglio area.

The woods were subjected to strict laws with the aim to protect them. They were located in the Cadore, in Comelico, in Agordino, in the Montello and in mountains of Istria (in Croatia). In another areas such as in Somadida (Auronzo di Cadore) and Cortina d’Ampezzo, the trees cut down were mainly larch, red fir and white spruce, ideal for the masts of great Venetain ships. In the forests of oaks of the Montello (north of Treviso) the plants were used for load-bearing parts of the ships, the order and the keel. Bent from an early age so that the trunk could take the form of the ship to which they were used.

The rigor and foresight of the Serenissima Republic of Venice allowed these forests to be exploited with restraint, to the point that they could survive till nowadays despite the period of degradation suffered after the fall of the Republic. The French made havoc and the Austrians exploited them heavily and the two world wars did the rest.

But thanks to the regenerative force of nature they survived and are now owned by the State Property of the Italian Republic.

(Written by Luigia Maria Marafon and translated by Hélène Salvadori)

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