Ghosts in Venice Halloween Fun
Ghosts in Venice
La Serenissima, sublime and steeped in history, has its share of ghost stories and hauntings. Many of these appear in literature down the ages. Tartini’s 18th century text Curiosita Veneziane refers to a ‘palace of spirits’ on the corner of Sacca della Misericordia, and speculates that its name originates from the strange noises to be heard from within. Perhaps these are generated by wind or echo, or simply voices transmitted from the Fondamente Nuove, but for the purposes of Halloween we will let our imaginations run wild!
Not far from this point in Campo dei Mori, is the Palazzo del Cammello, called Camel Palace because it has the noble ship of the desert portrayed on a bas-reiief on its front. In 1757 the palace was the alleged scene for the presence of a poltergeist. Tassini reports from that time that ‘for several evenings and at the same times, all the five bells inside the rooms of the palace were heard ringing.': ‘there was much fear, women fainting, blood curling,’. The poor residents of the palace had to request the Chaplain from the Scuola di San Fantin to come and exorcise the apparition.
Poor Old Bruno-Ahead of His Time
The palace of Ca’ Mocenigo too was reputedly troubled by a distinguished, walking dead. Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600), born Filippo Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, who is best known as a proponent of the infinity of the universe. His cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican model in identifying the Sun as just one of an infinite number of independently moving heavenly bodies: he is the first European man to have conceptualized the universe as a continuum where the stars we see at night are identical in nature to the Sun. Far-sighted views in those days and sufficient for him to be burned at the stake by the authorities in 1600 after the Roman Inquisition found him guilty of heresy.
The Venetian connection was that Bruno had been in-house tutor to Mocenigo for about two months. When Bruno announced his plan to leave Venice to his host, the latter, who was unhappy with the teachings he had received and had apparently developed a personal rancour towards Bruno, denounced him to the Venetian Inquisition, who had Bruno arrested on May 22, 1592. Among the numerous charges of blasphemy and heresy brought against him in Venice by Mocenigo, was his belief in the plurality of worlds, as well as accusations of personal misconduct. Bruno defended himself skillfully, stressing the philosophical character of some of his positions, denying others and admitting that he had had doubts on some matters of dogma. The Roman Inquisition, however, asked for his transferral to Rome. After several months and some quibbling the Venetian authorities reluctantly consented and Bruno was sent to Rome in February 1593. Strange perhaps that his troubled soul should return to Venice to cause mischief, but perhaps it was simple retaliation for his host’s ingratitude and criticism of his teachings, never denunciation.
Ca’ Dario is one of Venice’s most mysterious and eerie palaces but despite large numbers of owners ending their lives tragically there are few reliable tales of hauntings. Its bloody history is a litany of violent deaths and suicide. One of the more recent of these events was the suicide of Christopher Lambert, erstwhile manager of the Who rock group. Lambert bought the palace in the 80s, and later committed suicide by slashing his wrists. The palace is now owned by a multinational who, one presumes, hope a spread ownership may prevent a recurrence.
Massariol-Mind Your Breasts
More amusing is the legend of Massariol, a cheerful prankster, elf. His favourite trick was to change into a coiled rope and when a woman clutched it to her bosom, he (the rope) would chant ‘touch the breasts, touch the breasts! Truly we have here an elf who would have fitted comfortably into many a junior school. But what we may ask, were Venetian women doing, clutching coils of rope to their breasts?
More recently in the fifties an elderly Jewish man with a beard, perhaps a Rabbi, appeared in a house in the ghetto an in the synagogue.
Zani the Bellringer
Another ‘famous’ Venetian ghost is that of the Saint Mark’s Campanero, bell-ringer, a very tall man named Zani, whose skeleton is conserved at the Museum of Natural History at the Fondaco dei Turchi, across from San Marcuola. I cannot find any references to the period he lived in but reputedly he leaves the museum and twelve tolls occasionally at midnight. Gianni Nosenghi reports on this and other Venetian mysteries in his book entitled ‘the great book of solved and unsolved Venetian mysteries’ ‘il grande libro dei misteri di Venezia risolti e irrisolti’ and that book would make a great starting point for caring to undertake further research
Sleep Well at Venice Youth Hostel
Finally, you will probably be able to sleep without interruption in the Venice Youth Hostel for we have heard no reports of ethereal beings there, beyond those of a few undernourished students. For haunted hostels you will have to go to Florence. There the youth hostel in the 7 Santi convent is reputed to be haunted and the whispers of souls trapped in its walls may be heard if you are lucky-or is that unlucky? Certainly the intolerance, treacheries and poisonings of the Borgias would have provided a rich seam of potentially tortured souls!
For more news, views, features and inside visitor information on Venice visit veniceinfosite.com
Thanks to Goldberg for the photo