The Arsenale, the ‘Forge of War’, was Venice’s naval dockyard where the Serenissima Repubblica built the fast, sleek war galleys that ran the length and width of the Mediterranean, protecting Venetian trade and interests.
By 1500 the sixty-acre site, enclosed by blind fifty-foot-high brick walls topped with battlements, comprised the largest industrial complex in the world. It was capable of building, arming, provisioning and launching eighty galleys at a speed… unmatched by any rival.
(City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire by Roger Crowley)
…one galley only, but a large one, in each compartment; in one part of the arsenal there was a great crowd of masters and workmen who do nothing but build galleys or other ships of every kind… there are also masters continually occupied in making crossbows, bows and large and small arrows… in one covered place there are twelve masters each one with his workmen and his forge apart; and they labour continually making anchors and every kind of iron-work… then ther is a large and specious room where there are many women who do nothing but make sails…
(Pietro Casola, 1494)
…on one side are windows opening out of the houses of the arsenal, and the same on the other side, and out came a galley towed by a boat, and from the windows they handed out… from one the cordage, from another the bread, from another the arms, and from another the ballistas and mortars, and so from all sides everything which was required, and when the galley had reached the end of the street all the men required were on board, together with the complement of oars, and she was equipped from end to end. In this manner there came out ten galleys, fully armed, between the hours if three and nine.
(Pero Tafur, 1436)