Archive for Societa’ di Mutuo Soccorso fra Carpentieri e Calafati

Jun
15

The great conspiracy remembered

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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.

 

Categories : Venetian History
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Mar
09

The calafati party down

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I’m guessing you haven’t been giving much thought to ship caulking lately. Probably about as much thought as you haven’t given to San Foca — a point you share with most Earth-dwellers.  I can help you with this.

San Foca is the patron saint of caulkers, hence he is also the patron of The Societa’ di Mutuo Soccorso fra Carpentieri e Calafati:  The Society of Mutual Aid between Carpenters and Caulkers.

I can’t say there’s much work for either of these categories here anymore — certainly not as much as there was when the Venetian Republic was in full cry. But these craftsmen were always near the top of the food chain, considering that Venetian power was essentially naval.  A statement to this effect was recorded in the Venetian Senate, for what reason I know not, on July 13, 1487 (translated by me):  “… carpenters and caulkers, have been at all times the most appreciated and accepted on the galleys and other of our ships because in every need of any sort these men are the most adapted and necessary of any other kind of man.”  Considering the wear and tear a Venetian ship was likely to undergo in its life, especially after cannon began to be used, your caulker would have been up there with the navigator and the cook as far as the well-being and probable safe return of the crew were concerned.

Glimpse of a battle under the ramparts of Zara (now Zadar) Croatia, from the facade of the church of Santa Maria del Giglio. Just to give an idea of how useful it was to have a carpenter and/or caulker aboard.

The Society's standard, brought out for the occasion.

If you’re still not convinced that caulking is such a big deal, consider how much, as the song goes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  An example: On the night before a certain battle, which I’m not going to pause to look up just now, the Venetian admiral was pondering the odds for winning the imminent battle with the unpleasantly superior Turkish fleet.  Hope for the best?  Or just send a batch of men at night to swim under the Turkish ships and rip out the caulking sealing the planks of their hulls?  Dawn broke to what must have been a quiet but busy sound from the Turkish bilges, something like blub-blub-blub….

Back to the mutual aid society. March 5 is San Foca’s feast day, so he was celebrated at a special mass in honor of him as well as the departed members of the sodality.  And then, naturally, there was a party. You’ve heard it before: “All the psalms end with the ‘Gloria.'”

The church was full, something you don't see every day.

Seeing that I am a newly fledged (or whatever the ship-caulking counterpart might be) member of the SMSCC, Lino and I went to join in.

The ceremony was in the church of San Martino, which is right under the haunch of the Arsenal, and which is full of assorted tokens of carpentering and caulking.  There was nothing especially noteworthy about the mass, except for the unusually large number of people attending.  And the party followed tradition in its simplest and clearest outlines:  People!  Noise!  A small, hot room crammed with loud, hungry humans and vats of Venetian food!

I don’t know if San Foca had a favorite dish, but I’m always going to associate him with tripe soup. An ancient and honorable comestible which deserves a wider audience and which I’d bet money you would like as long as you didn’t know what it was.

And I think next year we should all plan to hold the party in Calafat, Romania. It was founded by caulkers from Genoa, but I suppose we could overlook that for the sake of harmony.  I’m going to get to work on the convoy’s banners: “Calafat or Bust.”

The priest blesses the gift packets containing a candle, an image of San Foca, and a small bread roll. The painting over the altar depicts the Holy Family with San Marco and San Foca.

 

My gift packet. The image of San Foca is from the basilica of San Marco. I suppose he is depicted hefting a rudder rather than a bag of dumb irons and a couple of mallets because, as patron saint of seafarers in general, it was thought best not to show favoritism to any particular craft.

Symbols of caulkers' tools in the main aisle of the church of San Martino.

We eat! Of COURSE we can all fit into the tiny room of the parish hall. Where's the food?

Keep that tripe soup coming.

 

Just the thing on a cold winter night. Be lavish with the grated parmesan, even if it isn't pasta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The soup keeps you going till they bring out the bigoli in salsa. Or you can just keep snacking on peanuts, pickles, beans, salame sandwiches...

 

If you go away hungry, it's your own fault.

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