As one of the most scenic and touristed places in the world, Venice has, perhaps inevitably, inspired a number of scholarly and general studies on its place in the history of tourism. Central to our modern notions of what it means to be a tourist is the concept of the sightseer: someone, that is, who engages in a socially and culturally constructed way of viewing—what sociologist John Urry has famously and specifically defined as “the tourist gaze.” Tourists who come to Venice include pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. For the pilgrim-tourists, it is not surprising that Venice's greatest attraction was religious, for this was a city that boasted a collection, not so much of holy sites, but of holy objects that may have been without equal in the western Christian world. Venice's patrician merchants had over the years brought back an incomparable hoard of saints' relics and other holy objects.
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