In Rialto there is a hunchback, a man hunched under a ladder intent on bearing an enormous weight on his shoulders. It is not a real hunchback but the statuary representation of a man, who really existed according to legends, condemned to bear the weight of a ladder and then died from fatigue.
Built in 1541 by Pietro di Sarlò, the “hunchback of Rialto” was placed in a strategic point of the city, in the meeting place of merchants and businessmen, as well as a place used for the public announcement of the most important decisions of the Venetian state but even death sentences. Right at the top of the ladder overlooking the so-called “hunchback”, in fact, the new laws, new convictions and new decisions by the high representation of the Republic of Venice were declared by the messenger. In addition to being a place of disclosure, the people decided to turn it into a real “talking statue“, that is the exact point in which to leave little notes with inguirious phrases against powerful people, to express all the discontent towards the decisions taken by the state. It does not end here, however, because the hunchback is not only this because it also represented a very important point for all those condemned to flogging.
The hunchback of Rialto for all thieves or malefactors who were condemned to the penalty of flogging, that is the corporal punishment given with the use of rods, represented a very important point for their sentence, that is the end. The punishment began between the columns of Marco and Todaro in Piazzetta San Marco and ended by kissing the statue of the “hunchback“, among the raging crowd. The punishment ended with a kiss to the statue of the “hunchback”, a gesture that, in 1545, it was replaced by the kiss of the so-called “croce dei frustai” (cross of the whips), a metal cross positioned on a pillar, also in Campo San Giacometto, which assumed the role of the final point of the punishment of flogging.