The black cloth in the Great Council Chamber in the Doges Palace in VeniceHistorical Curiosities
The black cloth in the Great Council Chamber in the Doges Palace in Venice
The Great Council Chamber in the Doge's palace is one of the most visited sites in Venice. Inside it we can get to know the history of the city and admire its former grandeur.
This Institutional Chamber opens visitors up to the darkest side in the history of the ancient Republic. Indeed, if we observe the portraits of the doges lined up underneath the ceiling all around the perimeter of the room, we will notice that one of the faces is covered by a black cloth. Underneath it is the portrait of Doge Marino Falier, disguised in such a manner because he soiled his hands with a foul deed: he attempted to establish a dictatorship under his power.
Marino Falier became a doge in 1354 and soon after set up a conspiracy with other noblemen from the city to establish a hereditary seignory and overthrow the Republican powers. The plot was unearthed and the conspirators, including the doge himself, were arrested, questioned, sentenced to death for high treason and beheaded outside the Doge's Palace on 15 April 1355.
With the aim of perpetuating the remembrance of this event, the Venice aristocracy decreed that each year a celebration should be held on the day of St Isidoro (16 April), the day Marino Falier had been sentenced to death. Additionally, it was decreed that the portrait of Falier in the Great Council Chamber should be removed from the line-up of doges portraits, and in its place this inscription was positioned: ‘Hic fuit locus ser Marini Faletri, decapitati pro crimine proditionis', which means ‘This was the place of Marin Falier, beheaded for treason'.
Legend has it that the ghost of the treacherous doge still wanders without rest in Campo Santi Giovanni and Paolo - where the burial church of many doges is located - as he was not granted this honour.
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