Jun
15

The great conspiracy remembered

By

Cesare Peris holds the replica of the banner borne by Tiepolo’s escadrille — it was the man carrying the flag who took the hit from the falling marble mortar. The image on this banner depicting the fatal event is clearly a modern addition.

Whoops.

I have already recounted most of this story elsewhere, but it’s worth recalling because it is one of the milestone episodes of Venetian history.  Also because today is the anniversary of the attempted coup, on June 15, 1310, to overthrow the Venetian government.

Not to begin a whole other train of trivia, but while we may be inclined to cheer the defeat of the three conspirators because we like how Venice turned out, it’s worth knowing that in 1310, as John Julius Norwich relates, Doge Pietro Gradenigo was the most detested man in Venice.

Certain typically arrogant actions of his had driven Pope Clement V to excommunicate the entire city-nation, which led Venice to the brink of commercial collapse.  An unwinnable war with the aforementioned pope consisted mainly of Venetian defeats, and increasing numbers of the doge’s enemies were convinced that Gradenigo’s policies were bringing disgrace and disaster on everyone.  Anger, tension, and fear were seething through the city, and a series of decrees intended to contain the discontent was, paradoxically, bringing the city to the verge of civil war.  It was quite evident to several young patricians that it was time for a very big change.

The attempted coup by Bajamonte Tiepolo, Piero and Marco Querini, and Badoero Badoer failed for a number of reasons, one of which (surprising to me, and especially to the plotters) was lack of popular support at the crucial moment.  I don’t understand this part very well, but it’s a story well worth reading in more detail, though not here.

In any case, they weren’t merely three young bloods who wanted to try their hand at ruling the world.  They were the ones who bubbled up to the top of the political pot as it was in the process of boiling over.

Now it’s June 15 again, 705 years later.  And it has come to pass over a certain period of time leading up to today that the Mutual Aid Society of Carpenters and Caulkers (full disclosure: I am a member), under the aegis of Cesare Peris, its “gastaldo,” or president, exhumed the very banner carried by Baiamonte Tiepolo as he was charging through the city toward the Doge’s Palace.

Not only that.  This banner, which had been slumbering somewhere in the Museo Correr, needed fixing.  With funding from a sponsor, the Caulkers commissioned (A) the restoration of the old silk banner, which by now was not in very sparkly condition, and (B) a replica of the banner, with a few small modifications.  And to undertake this work, art restorer Anna Passarella, in Padova, was engaged; she in turn engaged a squad of high school students at the Marco Polo-Liceo Artistico (high school of art) in Venice.  Yes, this task was accomplished by 15- and 16-year-olds.  If that isn’t sufficiently noteworthy, let me add that one them is a direct descendant, I was told, of the fateful doge Gradenigo.  Not made up.

On Side B of the flag are the symbols of the sponsors, including the group that made it.

On Side B of the flag are the symbols of the sponsors, including the group that made it.

This morning the banner was unfurled in Campo San Luca, carried in procession along the main route used by Tiepolo and Querini (attacking and then fleeing), with a pause at each important place along the way during which costumed trumpeters fanfared and a costumed crier read the story, step by step.  Too bad his voice was never loud enough to be heard over the chaos of the herds of tourists crushing their way through our group, but it was quite nice that he was reading in Venetian, and then in English.

The whole ceremony took about an hour, and then the banner was taken away to safekeeping.

I suppose that thousands of tourists will now go home thinking Venetians carry banners around the city, with trumpet fanfares, every day.

Actually, that’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard, but next time we ought to do it at 6:00 AM, before  Venice-Mart opens its doors for the day.

The trumpet corps waiting for their cue. Members of the Mutual Aid Society of Carpenteres and Caulkers, dressed in white polo shirts, are also awaiting developments.

The trumpet corps waiting for their cue. Members of the Mutual Aid Society of Carpenters and Caulkers, dressed in white polo shirts, are also awaiting developments.

The trumpets sound, and we're ready to start the walk of shame.

The trumpets sound, and we’re ready to start the walk.

The audience was very enthusiastic, but we hadn't gotten to the bottlenecks yet.

The audience was very enthusiastic, but we hadn’t gotten to the bottlenecks yet, hence we were all still friends.

The Long Trek begins.

The Great Trek begins.

Wending to the Ponte dei Bareteri.

Wending to the Ponte dei Bareteri.

We pause on the bridge for another fanfare and another chapter in the tale.

We pause on the bridge for another fanfare and another chapter in the tale.

This is the Mercerie, where things began to get interesting for them, and, in a less life-threatening way, also for us.

This is the Mercerie, where things began to get interesting for them, and, in a less life-threatening way, also for us.

The apex of the experience was here, just before passing under the Clock Tower at San Marco, at the point below the “old lady”‘s house from which her marble mortar fell and turned the tide of history. No one knows to this day if she did it on purpose  or if it was an accident.

Her name was Lucia (or Giustina) Rossi, and I'm convinced her daughters had nagged her for years to bring that mortar inside before she killed somebody.

Her name was Lucia (or Giustina) Rossi, and I’m convinced her daughters had nagged her for years to bring that damn mortar inside before she killed somebody.

Then Cesare Peris (left) and a colleague set the flag outside the windows of what had been the old woman's apartment. I wish you could have heard everyone singing here: The trumpets played the Hymn to San Marco, which everyone sang with great fervor. Then Cesare cried "Par tera e par mar!" (by land and by sea) and everyone bellowed "SAN MARCO!!" We repeated this three times. It was totally thrilling.

Then Cesare Peris (left) and a colleague set the flag outside the windows of what had been the old woman’s apartment. I wish you could have heard everyone singing here: The trumpets played the Hymn of San Marco, which everyone sang with great fervor. Then Cesare cried “Par tera e par mar!” (by land and by sea) and everyone bellowed “SAN MARCO!!” We repeated this three times. It was totally thrilling.

Halfway across the Piazza San Marco, turn right, and we stopped on the Ponte dei Dai, across which Querini and his conspirators fled toward the Rialto Bridge.  There were crowds then, there are crowds now.  At least it wasn't raining today, like it was back then.

Halfway across the Piazza San Marco, turn right, and we stopped on the Ponte dei Dai, across which Querini and his conspirators fled toward the Rialto Bridge. There were crowds then, there are crowds now. At least it wasn’t raining today, like it was back then.

We stopped atop the Rialto Bridge, which, being wooden, was easy for Querini to burn on his race back to his palace. Because of vast restoration work on the bridge, the traffic has become even more crushing.  This is the best I could do for a photo.  Naturally nobody could hear anything that was being said.

We stopped atop the Rialto Bridge, which in 1310, being wooden, was easy for Querini to burn on his race back to his palace. Because of vast restoration work on the bridge now, the traffic has become even more crushing. This is the best I could do for a photo. Naturally nobody could hear anything that was being said.

Down the Rialto Bridge and back to Campo San Luca. Oh yes, I love Venice in the summer. Only for Querini and Tiepolo would I ever have come to this part of the city today.

As the gonfalone of San Marco was raised at the end of tne ceremony, the standard of the Carpenters and Caulkers came to the fore. If you didn't like the color red, you'd have had to stay home today.

As the gonfalone of San Marco was raised at the end of the ceremony, the standard of the Carpenters and Caulkers (Carpentieri e Calafati) came to the fore. If you don’t like the color red, you’d have had to stay home today.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a gonfalone of San Marco was raised in Campo San Luca.  Lack of wind left it in a somewhat woebegone state.  But we sang and shouted again, and I, for one, went away happy.

An unfortunate absence of wind left the gonfalone in a somewhat woebegone state. But we sang and shouted again, and I, for one, went away happy.

The cimiero

The cimiero, or crest, which crowns the standard of the Mutual Aid Society of the Carpenters and Caulkers.  If Querini or Tiepolo had had a handful of these tools, the story might have ended differently.  Just a theory.

 

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Categories : Venetian History

Comments

  1. Mary Ann De Vlieg says:

    Like!

  2. John Flint says:

    Always something new out of Venice! Thanks again for opening my eyes to so many things – I didn’t know that the Great Conspiracy was celebrated in this way, nor had I heard of the Carpenters and Caulkers among the scuole, guilds, confraternities (“mutual assistance society” seems a much more accurate description, yes). Were women admitted to these associations in the past? You probably know, Erla – I’ll have to plough through my library.

    My take on the failure of the Conspiracy includes bad weather, bad strategic planning, faulty intelligence, bad luck, and certainly lack of mobile phones.