We The Italians | Italian art: The third column and other mysteries

Italian art: The third column and other mysteries

Italian art: The third column and other mysteries

  • WTI Magazine #100 Feb 17, 2018
  • 369

A series of mysteries animate the life of Venice in the recent months. The first is rooted in the myth of Venice's history: it is the third column of Piazzetta di San Marco.

September 1172, on Riva degli Schiavoni, the crowd awaits the return of the Serenissima ships from the second crusade. The captain Jacopo Orseolo Falier brings back from the Holy Land a unique load, three columns of grey and pink oriental granite: on every one of them he has put a statue with a symbol of Venice. The first is a winged chimera, very similar to the lion of San Marco; the second represents San Teodoro, the first patron saint of the city while trampling on a dragon that looks much more like a crocodile than a fantastic creature; and the third has on top a figure with a ducal horn in the head.

Orseolo personally oversees the landing operations but something goes wrong, maybe a winch arrived from the arsenal is defective, or an imbalance of the ship due to weight, or an unexpected wave, causes the third column to fall into the sea. The other two, on the other hand, manage to disembark sound and safe and after great worries about their elevation, by means of wet strings that dried up the columns millimeter by millimeter, were placed exactly where they are still today.

Since last September, the seabed surveys have been started in front of Riva degli Schiavoni for the search for the mythical third column, that many people insist to say is still lying on the muddy bottom of the big canal. There will be months of investigation on seven thousand square meters of which half in the water and half under the square: the search will be held only in the night hours to not create problems for residents and the great movement of tourists who daily travels that stretch of road between Ponte dei Sospiri and the Basilica of San Marco.

Roberto Padoan, commander of the research team commissioned by the Municipality of Venice, has recently declared that he has found the column at a depth of 7 metres, and now the problems for the eventual recovery of the precious exhibit will begin.

Just a few metres from the research site, at the beginning of 2018 a resounding theft was committed at Palazzo Ducale while the Al Thani collection exhibition was in progress.

The theft is estimated to be worth a few million euros and despite the existence of video surveillance cameras that testify to the act of theft, police hasn't found neither the stolen jewelry nor the perpetrators of the resounding blow. Through sophisticated technology, the thieves have been able to delay the start of the alarm, just in time to mix between the crowd and disappear into St. Mark's Square.

Once again close by, near Ponte della Pietà, a head of a statue has been found. It seems to portray a veiled Madonna from the beginning of the twentieth century. It is assumed that it may have been abandoned after a burglary ended badly, considering also the not indifferent weight of the artifact, or of a vandalic act that however has not yet been recognized because the mutilated statue without the head hasn't been found yet.

Three mysteries that will probably be solved in 2018 and that contribute to give Venice a further charm.