Ever heard of the Libro d’oro?
Libro d’oro is italian and means the Golden book. So, what was the Golden book? And what does it have to with Zakynthos?
Libro d’oro was once the formal directory of the nobles in the Republic of Venice. The Republic of Venice was a sovereign state and maritime republic that lasted from the 7th until the 18th century. It grew into a trading power and in 1485 they occupied Zakynthos, which remained under Venetian occupation until 1797.
Society was divided then into 3 classes. It was the common people, the crowd, who where farmers, sailors, craftsmen and generally poor people. They had no civil rights and were called Popolari (a term used also in Zakynthos)
Then there was the bourgeois, people with more “noble jobs”, like priests, teachers, scientists, artists, farmacists, notaries and merchants. The Civili, as they where called, could climb the ladder to the first class.
And then there were the ones who had the honor of having their names written in the Libro d’ oro. It was the nobles. Of them consisted also the senate of the republic and they, of course, owned land and had rights. Therefore, their names were written in this Golden book, which was burned by 1797, when the French arrived on the island.
However, the Nobili kept their property and their families remaimed noble. Until nowadays, when this classification and many noble names no longer exists, Zakynthians know who is descendant of one of the noble families and what land they owned once.
Each family of the Libro d’oro had its own coat of arms. They are perserved and can be observed at the Solomos Museum in the town of Zakynthos at San Marco square.