St Mark’s Square columns – you shall NOT pass!

Year after year Venice is visited by thousands and thousands of tourists: tourism grants the city a constant flow of people trying to see as much of it as possible and they are surely helped by transport. Actually, even if it isn’t possible to travel by car in Venice, the city has become far more reachable than in the past. If the transport development made it easier for people to visit the city, certainly today travelers miss the poetry that landing in Venice once possessed.

Before the accomplishment of Ponte della Libertà (the bridge connecting Venice to the mainland), anyone wanting to stay in Venice would have come by ship and many were those who landed in St Mark’s basin.


Just try and imagine! Days and days of sea, tired, hungry and then.. all forgotten. Time seems to stop and the Doge’s Palace, the Belltower, St Mark’s Square in their greatness appear just before your eyes. Going further towards the square you meet the the two marble guards, which seem to have been placed there to defend the city.

colonnemolo10I’m talking about the columns standing between the Doge’s Palace and the National Library of St Mark’s: two outstanding guards, imposing and elegant, topped by two statues, one portraying St. Theodore of Amasea, in the venetian dialect “Todaro”, who was the first protector of the city, and the other portraying the winged Lion, symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist, patron of the Republic of Venice.

But where did they come from? And how were they erected? Legend has it that the material came from the spoil of Constantinople. Originally three pillars were loaded, each one on one different ship, one of colonnemolo08which sadly wrecked. The two remaining were delivered but stood on the pier for more than a century, since no one was able to lift them due to their weight. One day, however, the incredible happened: Mr Battieri achieved their reaction by closely tying the two pilasters with with hemp ropes. Once tyed, he sprayed them: actually hemp, when wet, tends to shrink, so he managed to make them rise. In order to thank him for that clever ploy, the Serenissima accorded him the permission to manage gambling between the two columns, activity which was strictly forbidden in the remaining Serenissima(the permission expired with Battieri’s death).

Unfortunaly that space was destined to a far more dreadful use than gambling and here I explain the title of the article. Still today locals avoid to pass between these two famous columns: why? You’ll ask. Well, it is said that passing through them brings bad luck since that space was once used as scaffold. Many were those who found death just between St Theodore and the winged lion(usually by hanging or quartering) and here is where a venetian saying comes from: “Te fasso savér/véder mi, che ora che xe!”, which translates “Let ME show YOU, what time it is!”(t is used when fiercely scolding someone). Actually, the last thing men sentenced to death saw was the clock next to the Basilica of San Marco.

Not expecting that the story would turn so creepy, were you?

Remember: NEVER pass between the columns in St Mark’s Square!



Pictures from: La Nuova Venezia, Venezia Today




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