The Rialto Bridges
I am not sure how I ‘found’ Daniela, the owner of a unique language opportunity near Venice, but she continues to share wonderful stories about Venice.
Proves to me that even after 20 years of going Home to Italy, I have only seen a small part of this wonderful land that Italian Americans call home……
Sep 26, 2011 by Daniela
Apart from being so richly endowed with natural, artistic and human beauties, my beloved homeland is always lavish with events that lead to very interesting discoveries.
This is definitely the case with the conference I attended last Thursday during which the very well prepared Alberto Toso Fei told us about Venetian stories and legends that have enriched and amused me.
I would like to share with you some of these stories because I find them extremely interesting. I believe that when you come to Venice you will look from a different perspective at the monument I am going to tell you about right now: not to mention that you will surely impress the person who accompanies you by telling all these new facts you are going to learn now.
The famous, or rather very famous, monument I want to tell you about is the Rialto Bridge. As any proper bridge, also this one connects two vital and very central parts of Venice, both of them related to trades, albeit with two differing identities: on the one side Saint Mark, representing the center of the republican power and the part of Venice where the most affluent Venetian families lived; on the other side San Polo, the throbbing heart of the city’s life, where merchant activities were concentrated, mixed with other less noble trades: indeed, it was here where many taverns were located and, in particular, where prostitutes practiced their business.
The bridge made of stone that we see today is the fourth one built. The first wooden bridge was destroyed during the riots of Bajamonte Tiepolo, which exploded on June 15th, 1310. Thirteen years earlier, the Closing of the Great Council (Serrata del Maggior Consiglio) established that only the representatives of some families could be elected “doge”. Of course, this was the cause of great turmoil among the excluded families and their disappointment led to the 1310 riots. Bajamonte burned down the Rialto Bridge and then marched with his army to the Doge Palace.
Not far from St. Mark’s square, just before the bell tower (that at that time was not yet built) a woman, Giustina Rossi, hearing the noises coming from outside, opened the window of her house. While doing that, she forgot that the evening before she had left a stone mortar on the window sill (the story does not tell us what dish she prepared with it): the mortar fell right onto the head of the insurgents’ standard bearer, who were so flabbergasted that they surrendered. The Republic asked the lady what she wished to receive as a reward for saving Venice in such a dramatic situation. In a patriotic fashion, she simply asked to display St. Mark’s banner at the window on festive days and she was also granted a freeze on her apartment rent.
One of her heirs, a few centuries later, left the house to embark on a long trip. When he came back, he found out that the rent had been increased. He protested by pointing out who his ancestor had been and the rent was brought back to the agreed price: this way the Republic showed everyone that it had not forgotten Giustina’s merits.
Today you can still admire a bas-relief, located before the entrance to the Square from the Mercerie, that reminds you of that incident. If you look up, I am sure you will easily find it. Alternatively, this could be an opportunity to practice your Italian a bit by asking a Venetian: «Dove si trova il bassorilievo di Giustina Rossi?» («Where is Giustina Rossi’s bas-relief?»).
A new wooden Rialto bridge was built after Bajamonte had destroyed the previous one: but it collapsed in 1444 under the weight of the spectators who had come to witness the bridal procession of the marquis of Ferrara. The third bridge, also made from wood, was a drawbridge and there is still a picture of it in a painting by Carpaccio exhibited in the Accademia museum. The fourth bridge, the one made of stone, is the one we still see today and of which I will tell you about in one of my next articles.
Would you like to practice your Italian? Then follow this link http://www.joyfulit.it/2011/09/rialto-bridge-venice/?lang=it and read the same text in Italian.