Viva il doge – 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.
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 millennium Venice had doges, there were only four doges with the name Andrea. Two in the 1300s, one in the 1400s, and one in the 1500s.
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.
‘New’ frescoes in the Torcello basilica
Recent maintenance work on the Santa Maria Assunta basilica has uncovered ‘new’ frescoes. Hitherto unknown, they can throw some fresh light on the earliest history of Venice.
The ‘new’ frescos are from the 800s and 900s so they are actually quite old. The frescoes appear on the side walls, above the current ceiling, which dates to the early 1000s. They are not visible from inside the church.
The space above the arched ceiling was full of debris. When the workers removed this debris to check for infiltrations of rain water, fragments of old frescoes appeared.
Mosaics and frescoes
The church of Santa Maria Assunta dates from the 600s. Invading armies forced the bishop of the Roman city of Altino to flee, and he settled at Torcello. The Exarch of Ravenna, who governed the area on behalf of the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople, later authorised the move.
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 bailo (ambassador) to the Ottoman court in Constantinople in the late 1400s, and as a military commander during the war of the League of Cambrai.
He died in 1538.