Hidden history

Long live the doge

Viva il doge – Long live the doge – the writing on the wall celebrating the election of Andrea Gritto as doge in april 1523

Viva il doge – long live the doge.

The writing on the wall - Long live the doge

It is not uncommon to find old writings and graffiti on the walls in Venice. Like in ancient Pompeii, the Venetians would write messages and proclamations on the walls of the city.

Some years ago, the Venetian writer Alberto Toso Fei found a hitherto unknown writing (in cocciopestoCocciopesto Cocciopesto is a reddish-brown pigment made from ground up bricks, rust (iron oxide) and water.

When used on plaster or pietra d'Istria, cocciopesto can at times become very resistant, and writings or drawings on walls can last for centuries

) on the side of the façade of the de-consecrated church of Santa Giustina.

The lower parts of the writing are mostly lost, but the first lines are readable.

The first line only contains the symbols W, a drawing of the doge’s hat, and another W. W means viva, which is the exclamation “long live”. The doge’s hat, the corno ducale, refers to the doge as head of state.

The message is therefore “Long live the doge”.

The next line reads “W ANDREA” which is fairly straightforward.

There are more text, but it is not readable.

A doge named Andrea

The writing either promotes or celebrates the election of a doge named Andrea.

In the millennia Venice had doges, there were only four doges with the name Andrea. Two in the 14th century, one if the 15th, and one in the 16th.

The age of the church the writing appears on all but rules out the first three doges named Andrea, so the writing must necessary refer to Andrea Gritti, doge from 1523 to 1538.

The third, unreadable line of the writing is therefore most likely the name GRITTI.

Andrea Gritti - portrait by Tizian

Andrea Gritti

Andrea Gritti was elected doge in 1523, at the age of 68.

Born in 1455 into some of the riches and most powerful Venetian families of the time, he had a distinguished career.

Besides taking care of the family business, he served the Serenissima as ambassador to the Ottaman court in Constantinople in the late 15th century, and as a military commander during the war of the League of Cambrai.

He died in 1538.

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