I've been researching about Venetian warfare and came across this website which inspired me to ask the question. According to this website (of perhaps questionable repute), the following is stated:

In 1303, crossbow practice became compulsory for all citizens in the City of Venice.

While compulsory weapons training is one thing, it is another thing to actually be able to own and operate your own weapons. As such, did the Republic of Venice (between 1300 and say 1500 at the latest since the sources I cited are mostly talking about the 1300s) permit its citizens to own, carry and operate arms or was it forbidden?


According to this Guido Ruggiero, Law and Punishment in Early Renaissance Venice, 69 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 243 (1978) however, it states:

"[C]um multe fraudes committantur in civitate ista per nonullas accipientes duas uxores et hoc propter parva pena ...." A.S.V., M.C., Novella, f.80v (1359) and registered with the Avogadori: Adv., MC., Reg. 24/7, f.45r (1359). The council responsible for overseeing this provision was the Signori di Notte. One of the primary policing agencies of the city, it also enjoyed the right of imposing summary justice in the streets for minor brawls and illegally carrying weapons.

The bold has been inserted by me. This implies that there is a legal way to carry them. That source also states:

A good example of this complexity is revealed by an adjustment of the requirement for a gratia concerned with carrying or using of weapons:
Nor may a gratia be given to anyone who incurred any penalty from the Signori di Notte or the Capi di Sestiere or the Cinque alle Pace [all policing bodies with the right to give summary justice for minor brawling and carrying weapons without the vote of 30 members of the Council of Forty ... nor without the approval of the customary number of Ducal councilors (five of six) ... nor without the approval of five of six of the Capi di Sestiere when the - penalty was imposed by them.

So based on this, it seems that it was possible albeit with a really difficult process, but the question still remains as its not clear whether this actually applies to a common person or not.

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    I think you need to verify that website's claim before you ask a question rhat depends on it.
    – Spencer
    Sep 13, 2023 at 21:37
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    A website called "the truth about guns" immediately makes me wonder about its bias.
    – SPavel
    Sep 13, 2023 at 23:41
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    The Republic of Venice was a thing for more than a millenia and I imagine the answer was not the same for the entire time. Are we to assume you're asking about the early 14th century specifically?
    – Brian Z
    Sep 14, 2023 at 2:12
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    People carry weapons usually for self defense. I find it very hard to imagine someone carrying a crossbow for that purpose. A dagger? Yes. A short sword? Yes. A longer sword? If you want. But a crossbow? Definitely not.
    – Jos
    Sep 14, 2023 at 3:29
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    Haven't found anything about Venice specifically, but it does look like it was fairly common in urban areas (like Venice) for carrying of arms in peacetime to be restricted to the nobility.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 14, 2023 at 15:10

2 Answers 2


There is at least some evidence that carrying of arms in Venice was legally restricted during the oligarchic period from around 1300 to the 1600s. Reference: Carew Hazlitt, The Venetian Republic, 2 vols, 1915.

Hazlitt tells us: "It was remarked by Montaigne in 1580, or at least by his secretary, that only in the Venetian territories people refrained from carrying side-arms. This peculiarity, however, if it were so, dated only from the fourteenth century, when the Government found it necessary to restrain the mischief and bloodshed arising from melées in the streets. But if side-arms were not openly used, concealed weapons were generally at hand, and the arquebus, when gunpowder was introduced, was treated with an almost strange toleration." (Vol 2 p.593) https://archive.org/details/venetianrepublic0002will/page/593/mode/1up

The changes in the 14th century relate to the establishment of oligarchic rule, when attempts at rebellion were suppressed and control of the state passed to hand-picked committees drawn from a small number of elite families (the Serrata).

As part of this process, in 1311, "the prohibition against the use of side-arms by members of the Great Council, which had been renewed in 1309, was provisionally rescinded in favour of such members as attended the legislative body" (Vol 1, p556) https://archive.org/details/venetianrepublic0001will/page/556/mode/1up

If even the Great Council were (for a short time) banned from carrying weapons, it seems reasonable to assume the population were also restricted. At the same time, a civic guard of 1500 men was instituted, and various other police measures.

The restrictions appear to still have been in place in Montaigne’s time (granted, it would be nice to have more evidence for the period in between). The police forces were permitted to be armed, although they had difficulty enforcing the law. Examples from the later period show that going armed seems generally to have been associated with criminality.


I haven't got much knowledge about this subject and I just made a very superficial research, but I found that Vendrame, the man who in 1355 blew the whistle on Doge Marin Falier's plot to become absolute ruler of Venice, was awarded many exceptional privileges, one of them being that of being allowed to carry weapons; it seems reasonable then to infer that carrying a weapon was not usually permitted if being allowed to do so was an exceptional privilege. The story of Marin Falier's attempted coup can easily be found in many publications all over the Internet, some of them must be more accurate and detailed.

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    Sep 14, 2023 at 19:45

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