The bizarre sculptures that adorn the bell tower of the church of San Polo in VeniceLocal Traditions
The bizarre sculptures that adorn the bell tower of the church of San Polo in Venice
In the bell tower of the church of San Polo in Venice, there is a typical example of a medieval Venetian bell tower with a cone spire; the front door is surmounted by two special sculptures in a Romanesque style: a lion grasping a snake and another lion holding with the front legs a human head. Medieval ecclesiastical buildings were often decorated with monsters or wild animals, often to emphasize the difference between the outside of the church, where there was bad, and the interior, the house of God.
Popular tradition has given the two figures, however, a very different meaning, linked to the history of Venice.
The snake caught between the claws of one of the lions represents the conspiracy of Tiepolo Baiamonte, "crushed" by the Council of Ten.
In 1310 Baiamonte Tiepolo took charge of a conspiracy of young Venetian nobles to overthrow the government of the Republic of Venice, but on that occasion he was discovered and, to ensure the internal security of the state, the Council of Ten was created, which sadly became famous for its ruthlessness in eliminating any possible enemy of Venice.
The human head on the other lion could be Bussone Francis, Count of Carmagnola, captain of the Venetian troops in the war against Milan (1425). In 1432 the Venetian Senate, however, accused him of treason and had him beheaded.
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