Noilly Prattle: How do I kill thee? Let me count the ways . . .

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How do I kill thee? Let me count the ways . . .

[with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning]

Campanile (left), Doge's Palace, Prison (right)
     Many of the cities of the world (especially in Europe) are proud of touting their glorious historical achievements. Many of these achievements are a marvel to behold, artistically, musically, architecturally. What is often glossed over is the dark side of what these achievements are too often based on—wealth, often ill gotten and on the backs of those either vying for power or opposed to it.  

wall paintings -
ceiling with bas relief
and frescoes
Doge in the company of saintly figures
       The city-state of the Venetian Republic under the governorship of the Doges is no exception. The walls and ceilings of the glorious Ducal Palace are adorned with numerous paintings and bas-relief sculpture bespeaking the wealth and power of this place. Not of few of these images display the sanction of the Church underpinning the power of the Doges, resplendently gowned and surrounded by saints and other heavenly figures. Of course, during the thousand years of Venice's ascendency (8th to 18th Centuries) the supremacy of the Vatican was paramount and all secular European leaders had to claim their legitimacy as deriving from God through the Catholic Church. Thus, the Doges are depicted in various devout poses—even to the Church's sanctioning of war (the Doge humbly receiving a sword from a Church dignitary, for example).

Doge receiving the sword of war from possibly the Pope
or a high ranking Church official



      The tour through the Doge's Palace includes the armory, a magnificent display of the different methods of killing people available at the time (it is a quite startlingly extensive display of weaponry: swords, pikes, spears, crossbows, bludgeons, knives, armor, and guns of all kinds). As I stood gazing upon all this hardware, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's little sonnet, with a little twist, popped into my head while viewing the proudly displayed instruments of death and advancement of Ducal power and wealth.

helmet and bludgeons
don't know what these beauties are called,
some look like machetes on long handles



long barrel pistol

multiple barrel rifle - kind of a long six + gun


inner yard of the prison
Ponte dei Sospiri
(Bridge of Sighs)
       Finally, the palace tour concludes with a visit to the prison. It's impossible to overlook the splendor of the palace itself contrasted to the squalor of the adjacent prison, just across the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs). The bridge gets its name from the sighs (and probably moans and groans) of convicted prisoners many of whom knew they would never see the light of day again as they crossed the narrow bridge into a black hole of oblivion.

a multi-man cell

heavily barred window

another cell for several prisoners
       I wonder if they, too, perhaps gazed out through the latticework at San Giorgio Maggiore, probably for the last time.

San Giorgio Maggiore through the stone latticework (the only windows) on the Bridge of Sighs

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