In one corner of the island of the lazaretto nuovo, in the Venetian lagoon, stands a beautiful, sixteenth-century well [Figure I.1]. From the fifteenth century, wells had become common features of squares, private courtyards and public institutions across Venice.1 Drinking water was famously difficult to source: the proverb runs that Venice is in water, but it has no water (Venezia è in aqua et non ha acqua). Wells like this one, which were paid for by the Venetian Republic, displayed the lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice, as a testament to the paternal care of the government towards the city’s inhabitants in securing this indispensible resource. The lion on the well was shown in moleca (winged) and holding a book which contained the words, ‘Peace be unto you, Mark my Evangelist’ (Pax Tibi Marce Evangelista Meus). A lingering look at this well, which is replete with state iconography, can tell us much about Venice in the past. Above all, the well and its symbols illustrate how important the physical environment and perceived godly nature of the city were for shaping early modern Venice.2