S. Polo – Curiosità Veneziane

Tassini - Curiosità Veneziane - Filippi Editore

S. Polo (Sestiere, Campo, Salizzada, Ponte, Rio)

Curiosità Veneziane by Giuseppe Tassini is the go-to book for information on Venetian toponyms, and a treasure trove of curious historical titbits. First published in 1863, it is still being reprinted regularly.

There is no English translation of the book, so I will translate selected entries on this site, whenever they’re used as sources for articles.

S. Polo (Sestiere, Campo, Salizzada, Ponte, Rio). The doges Pietro and Giovanni Tradonico1 founded the church of St Paul, commonly S. Polo, in 837. It is not known that such an ancient church has had any renovation or restoration in the past centuries, and it is perhaps for this reason, as Corner2 writes, that certain writers attribute its foundation to different families, who only rebuilt it. It was reduced to its present form by David Rossi in 1805. It was completed in 1838, and shortly afterwards consecrated by the patriarch Monico.3

Its bell tower was finished by Filippo Dandolo, procurator of the structure, and on it you can see two lions, one of which has its neck entwined by a snake, and the other holds a human head severed from the torso between its paws, allusion, according to some, to the plot and punishment of Marin Falier,4 and, according to others, to Francesco Carmagnola.5 The latter, however, do not realize that the character of the chisel hints at an era somewhat prior to the death of the unhappy general.

The church of S. Polo was formerly a parish church, but in 1810 it was reduced to a branch of S. M. Gloriosa dei Frari.

Since a terrible earthquake occurred in Venice in 1343, on the day of St. Paul, which lasted fifteen days, on which occasion, according to Sabellicus, the Grand Canal dried up and a thousand houses fell, the custom arose of calling the poor saint St. Paul of the earthquake.

We remember that Stefano Pianigo, parish priest of S. Polo, and notary to the magistracy of property, was deprived of all offices and benefits on 7 September 1369, as well as fined two hundred lire because he induced a certain Cristina to marry Nicoletto d’Avanzo with the agreement to lie with her the first night. Cristina was also punished and, having fulfilled her promise to the parish priest, continued the affair afterwards. And finally d’Avanzo was punished qui tam faetentibus nuptiis assensum praestitit. See Gallicciolli, book II, chapter. XII, No. 1773.6

Regarding another parish priest of S. Polo, surnamed Antonio Gatto, we have the following curious details in the Notatorii del Gradenigo.7 A poor newborn baby was abandoned in the middle of the night in a basket in Campo S. Polo by the cruelty of his parents. The basket was overturned by a cat, and at the cries of the child, it was, at dawn, picked up by order of a gentleman who lived nearby, and who had the child educated, until he, having become an adult, did his ecclesiastical career with the name of Antonio Gatto, becoming parish priest of S. Polo in 1563.8

Since ancient times, a market has been held in Campo S. Polo several days a week, but it was later decided to hold it only on Wednesdays. After the fall of the Republic, Wednesday was replaced by Saturday, the day on which the market was previously held in Piazza di S. Marco.

Agostini’s chronicle9 recalls that, having come to Venice on 26 July 1450, a Francis, a disciple of St. Bernardino, named Fra’ Santo, who used to attract as many as two thousand listeners to his sermons, set out one day to proclaim the word of God in Campo S. Polo, and attacking worldly vanities, he lit a large fire and burned a large quantity of drezze, franze, e drappi.10

In Campo S. Polo there was a bow and crossbow practise ground, which was removed in 1452, as the nobles domiciled there had obtained this in compensation for the hospitality provided in their homes to Alberto Duke of Austria, who came to Venice with the emperor Frederick III and the King of Hungary. This square, according to Sanudo,11 was paved for the first time in 1494, and then the well was constructed in the middle.

Various celebrations were held in Campo S. Polo, including on 14 February 1497 M. V.12 a festival of Florentine merchants in masks with a fairground; on 21 January 1503 M. V. a party given by a company of the Calza, Francesco Venier being its lord, with bull fights, breakfast, and dancing on an attic, participation of many ladies, and fireworks during the evening; on 10 June 1507 a public ball for the wedding of Andrea Vendramin, of Giovanni; on 14 October of the same year, a party in an attic with the performance of the mime entitled: Jason at the Conquest of the Golden Fleece, for the wedding of Luca da Lezze with a daughter of G. B. Foscarini; in 1644 a masquerade with great pomp of clothes and jewels, which proceeded with many torches to the Clock tower, after having gone to the monasteries of S. Lorenzo and S. Zaccaria.

In Campo S. Polo, according to Cicogna, Codex 270,13 a splendid parade of soldiers was held in 1510.

In Campo S. Polo, according to the Diaries of Sanudo, on April 2, 1511, Friar Ruffin Lovato, a Franciscan, preached against the Israelites, saying that it would be right to take from them all they have, and to plunder them, because this land is full of Judeans who fled here. However, at the request of the bankers Anselmo and Vivian, who presented themselves before the heads of the Council of Ten, they decided to admonish that friar, and also the other friar who preached in the same sense in the church of S. Cassiano.

Various palaces stand here. To the right of those coming from S. Apollinare you can see Palazzo Bernardo, later Maffetti, which was painted externally by Salviati, and which in the last century was rebuilt based on a design perhaps by Giorgio Massari. Then the Gothic Palazzo Soranzo, once enriched by frescoes by Giorgione. Then a remnant of the ancient Palazzo Donà with a Gothic doorway, whose archivolt is sculpted with bands and animals, a work from the 13th century. Finally, turning, the Corner palace, where, before its rebuilding, carried out by Sammicheli, many illustrious people lived, as we have noted elsewhere.

We have elsewhere said that on 26 February 1548 Lorenzino de Medici was killed in Campo di S. Polo together with his maternal uncle Alessandro Soderini. Now we will give the details of this tragic fact. It is known how Lorenzino treacherously removed Alessandro dei Medici, Duke of Florence, on the eve of the Epiphany in the year 1537, and how then, having fled from Florence, he went to Venice, from there to Constantinople, then to Paris, and finally again in Venice, persecuted with a high reward for his capture by Duke Cosimo, who succeeded Alessandro in the principality. To finish off his victim, he had paid and sent to Venice Captain Francesco Bibboni and a Bebo from Volterra, who took up lodgings next to Lorenzino, then domiciled in Campo di S. Polo under the false name of Mr Dario. The two assassins attempted to kill him several times, and especially one day when he had been invited to dine by Monsignor Della Casa, and another when he had gone to visit the beautiful Barozza, his lover. Finally, on 26 February 1548, Bibboni, from a shoemaker’s shop, where the entire square of S. Pavolo was visible, and in particular Lorenzo’s palace, saw the latter with a towel around his neck, combing his hair and preparing to go out. He immediately runs to call Bebo, and, having attacked Lorenzino and his uncle Alessandro Soderini, who have left the house together, he mortally wounds them both, after which he and his companion take refuge first with Count Felice Collalto, and then with the Spanish ambassador. , who keeps them hidden for many days and finally has them taken by boat to a safe place. We have taken this story from the report that Bibboni himself wrote to Duke Cosimo about his actions, a report published by the knight Carlo Morbio in the appendix to volume VI of his Storie dei Municipi Italiani, and published with more precision by Cantù in his Spigolature negli Archivi Toscani. Segni (Storie Fiorentine) adds that at the moment of Lorenzo’s killing his mother rushed to Campo di San Polo and was in time to catch his last breath. Others gave us the news of all the honours and all the rewards bestowed by Duke Cosimo on the assassins. The Venetian chroniclers on the other hand remained silent about everything, perhaps because the Republic, out of respect for Duke Cosimo, or for the Spanish ambassador, wanted to turn a blind eye and ensure that the adventure was forgotten.

At the start of the Rio di S. Polo, in the Grand Canal, the patrician Renier Foscarini, of Pietro, of Renier, and Bianca Giunta, his wife, drowned on the night of 9 September 1642, due to a fierce wind that overturned the gondola they were in.

A canal once ran along the Campo di S. Polo which was filled in during the last century. Cicogna, Codex 264, dated 21 June 1761: In Campo S. Polo they filled in the canal and demolished the walls that were around it, and thus made the square very spacious.

We will close by noting that Adriano Balbi, illustrious representative of modern geographical science, lived in Campo S. Polo, at N. A. 2172. A plaque, placed for municipal care, indicates his home.

Translator’s notes

  1. Pietro Tradonico, 13th doge of Venice (836-864) and his son Giovanni, co-ruler (836-863). ↩︎
  2. Flaminio Corner: Notizie storiche delle chiese e monasteri di Venezia e di Torcello, Padova, 1758, p. 343. ↩︎
  3. Jacopo Monico, Patriarch of Venice (1826-1851). ↩︎
  4. Marin Falier, 55th doge of Venice (1354-1355), beheaded for treason. ↩︎
  5. Francesco Bussone, Count of Carmagnola, was a condottiero (mercenary general), executed by the Republic of Venice for treason (c.1382-1432). ↩︎
  6. In Galliccioli, Delle memorie Venete antiche, profane ed ecclesiastiche, Venice, 1795, voll. VIII, the reference is in volume VI, p. 21. ↩︎
  7. Pietro Gradenigo, Notatori, 38 unpublished manuscripts covering events of the period 1748-1773, currently in the library of the Museo Correr in Venice. ↩︎
  8. Gatto means cat. ↩︎
  9. Agostino Agostini 1542-1575) was a Venetian diplomat and chronicler, but his chronicle of the History of Venice is yet unpublished (Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani – Treccani) ↩︎
  10. In Venetian, drezze means braids, either of women’s hair or decorations on curtains, franze are fringes, probably of curtains, drappi means women’s clothes, of silk or otherwise luxurious. ↩︎
  11. Marin Sanudo (1466-1536), Venetian nobleman and member of the Consiglio Maggiore, kept a detailed diary from 1496 to 1533, in 58 volumes. ↩︎
  12. M.V. — More veneto — refers to the Venetian calendar which had new year on March 1st. ↩︎
  13. Emanuele Antonio Cicogna (1789-1868) was a Venetian scholar and writer, who bequeathed his collection of books and manuscripts to the library of the Museo Correr. ↩︎

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Original Italian text

S. Polo (Sestiere, Campo, Salizzada, Ponte, Rio) in Curiosità Veneziane.

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