The story of the “Vecia del Morter” and the bas-relief a few steps from Piazza San Marco
A Venetian character famous for his casual and fortuitous intervention that put an end to the advance of the conspirators who wanted to kill the Doge and overthrow the Republican government.
Not far from the Clock Tower in Piazza San Marco there is a very particular bas-relief representing a lady holding a mortar. The woman is known by the Venetians as “la vecia del morter” and to see her just look up on the arch that leads to calle del Cappello Nero, located a stone’s throw from Piazza San Marco. But who would be this lady who curiously looks out onto the street with her hand, the tool commonly used in the kitchen to pound food? And why is there a bas-relief in one of the most important places in Venice?
Her name was Giustina Rossi and her face is depicted in the bas-relief made in 1841 in memory of an event that occurred on June 15, 1310, as reported in the writing below the figure. Legend has it: it was she who blocked the advance of the conspirators led by Baiamonte Tiepolo who wanted to kill the Doge Pietro Gradenico and overthrow the Venetian aristocratic Republic. How did she do it? All thanks to her irrepressible curiosity that, making her appear on the balcony while she was cooking, accidentally the pestle of the mortar in her hand fell on the head of the bishop on horseback alongside Baiamonte who, frightened by the incident, fled, together with all the others through the “Calle del Cappello Nero” ending on the bridge known in Venice as the bridge of the “Dai”, a name taken from this event. It is said that the people, seeing the conspirators flee towards the bridge, kept shouting “Dai (go on) Dai (go on), let’s take them” and since then this name was given to that place.
The Doge, having come to discover that the conspirators led by Tiepolo escaped at the hands of Signora Giustina, summoned her to the Doge Palace to thank her and asked her what her greatest desire for reward was. The woman, in addition to wanting the flag of San Marco to be displayed from the window on the day of San Vito (the 15th of June), asked the Doge that the rent of his house and of his mirror shop that he paid to the prosecutors di San Marco no longer underwent an increase and therefore remained fixed at 15 “ducati” a year for her and her future heirs. The Doge agreed and from that day, Giustina and every heir who had never lived in Venice paid, and continues to pay, that rent established in 1310 by the Doge, which survived even after the fall of the Republic of Venice and still in force until now.