Hidden treasures

The cell no. 10 in the Pozzi prison of the Doge's Palace in Venice

Unknown places & works

The cell no. 10 in the Pozzi prison of the Doge's Palace in Venice

In the 1980s, during the restoration of the so-called ‘Pozzi’ (wells), the underground prison cells in the Doge's Palace, the tenth cell unexpectedly revealed a valuable treasure... Under the layer of lime and dirt that covered its ceiling and walls some graffiti were discovered, which then proved to be a proper painting drawn by talented hands: it depicted a 'sacred conversation' in which the Virgin Mary held the Child in her arms surrounded by St. Rocco, St. Benedict and St. Sebastian and, on the opposite wall of the cell, an image of Jesus crucified covered by the figure of an angel.

According to the reconstruction by the Art historian Giandomenico Romanelli, Riccardo Perucolo, a ‘frescante’ (a frescoe painter) from Conegliano, was imprisoned here in June 1549 following an order issued by the Inquisition. The judges of the Holy Office, under orders from the Vatican nuncio Monsignor Giovanni Della Casa, author of the famous ‘Galateo’ (Rules of Polite Behaviour), accused him of Lutheran heresy.

The unlucky man, terrorized by the torture and even more by the horrendous living conditions in the cells, confessed to such accusations and forswore. As an act of good faith he declared himself ready to create a wall painting that depicted the Virgin Mary and the Saints, which could console sick prisoners, given that he knew the cell would be turned into an infirmary.

So the painter began his work, but never finished it... Released from prison and sentenced to recite penance, he purported an apparent devotion to the Roman Church for twenty years, whilst actually continuing his apostolate for a Reformed Church. At the beginning of year 1568 he was burned alive at the stake in Piazza del Mercato in Conegliano.

The Doge’s Palace cells can be visited only by booking a special tour with a qualified guide... Upon request, the route can be inserted in our private guided tour of the Venice Doge’s Palace.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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