"You know that St. John, San Giovanni, is the Evangelist who wrote the Apocalypse, don’t you? Come on, even I know it, and I’m Jewish! And God himself knows if I’ve been punished for being a Jew. By the way, don’t you think that the idea of nailing you to that cross was really, well, appropriate?"
After the laws issued by the Government of the Most Serene Republic, the 29th March 1516 was born in Venice the first ghetto in the European history, a zone in which the numerous, and rich, Jewish population was closed from sunset to dawn, as an indication of their religion, and their status of strangers.
The influence that the Venetian Sanctified had on the issue was heavy, obviously due to political reasons: a community of Jewish Mekhet occultists was gaining particular power and authority. The Shadows were so exiled by the united forces of the Lancea Sanctum and Invictus in the area called “Ghetto Nuovo”, and were forbidden to feed upon catholic blood.
Within the claustrophobic walls of the ghetto Mekhet’s attention was captured by the prosperous Sangiovanni family (probably the name derives from an Italianization of an Aramaic word of different meaning), practitioners of a form of magic coming from King Solomon himself. Vampires and mortals attracted each other, generating Abram, the ancestor of the Sangiovanni bloodline. These Damned developed a strong sense of family and unity, so much that they decided to Embrace the mortal members of the Sangiovanni dynasty only. They also developed a great veneration for traditions, and were capable of a cohesion and a solidarity never seen before in Kindred society. But on the other side they got the worst aspects of their position of recluses also: two of them are called incest and necrophilia. The Sangiovanni followed the Jewish community in the activities of merchants and usurers, adding the selling of their black arts to everyone could pay their price. While smiling affably to the powerful Lancea Sanctum, behind the mask they were brooding their grudge, and their vengeance.
In 1797, then, Napoleon and the French conquered Venice, and knocked down the ghetto’s gates. The desire to taste their new freedom cost the breed the respect for canons which had been basic for their survival: the old, insular usages were abandoned to take a more open attitude, when not dissolute and hedonistic. Even the arts of obscuration typical of the Mekhet were substituted with uses of Blood focused on increasing the personal appeal and charm. The patriarch Abram Sangiovanni, facing a potential decay of the clan, immediately stopped the divulgation of their magic secrets adopting a conduct that we can exemplify with the motto: “If you want to hide something, show it to everyone”. From that point, the family penetrated evidently in every Venetian Elysium, quickly acquiring power and influence, and entered in the Invictus, the same Invictus which was the best ally of their greatest enemy. When talking to the other Kindred, the Sangiovanni boasted of unlikely witchlike powers, letting them think that their words were only empty and conceited, without knowing the truth.
Soon the Invictus and the whole Venice depended almost completely on them, thanks to the huge wealth achieved by the bloodline. Soon the Lancea Sanctum, watching impotently, fell into disgrace, charged “by reliable sources” with Satanism and spoiled of her authority. The persecutors became the persecuted: the Sanctified are still today barely tolerated in Venice, if not openly opposed.
In the modern nights the Sangiovanni have kept the family unity, the habits and the vices they had inside the ghetto, and the power, the habits and the vices they had outside the ghetto. Notable is the Shrove Tuesday Masque, open to every Kindred of the city. During this event, every member of the breed traditionally wears a particular beaked mask, used in the Middle Ages by the so-called “plague’s doctors” to approach the infected without risk of contagion, and which became the bloodline’s emblem. In their next future, the Merchants surely plan the end of the Lancea Sanctum existence in Venice. Anyway, being the Invictus more subdued to them every night that passes, with the support they get from the majority of the city’s vampires, and with their arcane knowledge, none can really say what they will be capable of: their hate is still strong and vivid, stainless legacy of 281 years of imprisonment.
In the dark canals of Venice, disturbing rumours are whispered about their rancour. “Yesterday the ghetto, and today Venice. Today Venice, and tomorrow…”
Parent Clan: Mekhet
Covenant: The Sangiovanni are primarily faithful to their family and Abram (currently in torpor). Secondarily, they adhere to the Invictus, but this is irrelevant: they are the Invictus, nowadays. Some Merchants follow the studies of the Circle of the Crone or the Ordo Dracul, aiming to raise their mystic knowledge. Not a single member of the breed would ever dare joining the Sanctified, for no reason. The few who just thought about it became, without exception, the main drink of the Shrove Tuesday Masque.
Appearance: Their features are typically Mediterranean, not reaching a very remarkable height, but they are generally pleasant to see, when not good-looking: this is particularly true for women. Usually the clan members dress with magnificence, often in an exaggerated way, but they are never banal. In the Masque’s night, their wonderful variations on the “plague’s doctors” mask theme are object of veneration from other vampires and ground of rivalry between the Sangiovanni. During the stay in the ghetto they instead dressed very soberly, and the law required that when a Jew desired to go out of Ghetto Nuovo, he had to wear a red hat. Some Merchants wear it even today, as a sign of both pride and provocation.
Haven: Any refuge spacious and sumptuous enough is enjoyable for a Sangiovanni. The furniture is luxurious and often decorated with useless furnishings. Quite common are photos, portraits and pictures of mortal and vampiric relatives. Obligatory is a private and well-hidden chamber to practise the breed’s sorcery and keep all the necessaire to perform the rites.
Background: The Sangiovanni only Embrace members of the homonymous mortal family, granting so an amazing compactness among the ranks of the breed. They don’t generate neonates too often, otherwise the family would not have “prolific individuals” anymore to survive. Clever, sharp and supernatural-inclined personalities are the most appreciated choice, because of the clan activities.
Character Creation: The Social Attributes and Abilities are fundamental both to the commercial and magic operations of the bloodline. Equally important are estimated the Mental ones, also because a good Occult knowledge can be determinant for the successful result of a ritual. More often than not the Sangiovanni leave the physical works to their servants, or to other non-clan vampires adequately paid or blood-bonded.
Bloodline Disciplines: Auspex, Celerity, Goetia, Majesty (in place of Obfuscate after the 1797).
Weaknesses: The Sangiovanni share the same sensibility of their Mekhet ancestors towards fire and sunlight. Besides, both the vampiric and mortal family link among the clan members implicates that the rules for blood relations don’t apply to Kindred who are at two “steps” of distance in the Embrace only, but also to all the bloodline members. This means that every Merchant will influence and will be influenced easily when using some Disciplines among blood relatives. Finally, is a respected custom of the breed that immediately after the entering in the bloodline (i.e. after the passage from Mekhet to Sangiovanni), every new member is submitted to Vinculum towards his own sire, or, if the sire is not available, towards a pre-established mentor. This rite strengthens the already strong clan unity, and erases every trace of precedent blood bonds, as well as preventing neonates to be blood-bonded to non-clan Kindred in the future. But, even if in the past this tradition has been relevant for the survival in the ghetto, nowadays most sires tend to take advantage of their children’s “disposability”, sometimes with unpleasant consequences.
Organization: Although the clan structure has been loosing after the ghetto liberation, the Elders still impose traditions such as the one which requires that the new vampires have to be chosen only among the mortal Sangiovanni, or the one which establish that every neonate has to be blood-bonded to his “parent”. As a result, the breed is faithful to herself and to her guides, even if she’s conceding more and more autonomy to the individual. Before his fall into torpor, Abram Sangiovanni has been recognized by the Invictus as the Most Serene Doge, Duke, of Venice. This is a purely symbolic office, but on the other hand shows the power the Merchants held in the city’s society. Their emblem, today much simplified if compared with the heraldic coat of arms of the ghetto times, illustrates the “plague’s doctors” mask in front of the Ghetto Nuovo’s gates.
Concepts: Dealer, Influent Harpy, Informant, Practitioner of the Black Arts, Rich Sponsor, Studious, Usurer.