10 May 2008

Cleaning up the neighborhood

This is Palazzo Soranzo, built early in the 15th century behind Basilica San Marco in an area where just about everything is named Something or Other L’Anzolo (“the angel” in Venetian dialect). There’s a good reason for that – and I got the story straight from the current tenants of the ground floor of the palazzo, the two gentleman proprietors of Legatoria Lanfranchi, a real Old World bookbindery still in full and fine operation. Here’s the scoop…

In 1552, when the ground floor now housing the legatoria was the workspace of some drapery dyers, it seems the Devil himself decided to occupy the top floor. Apparently it was quite a nuisance having Old Scratch for a neighbor. So an avenging angel (who certainly must have been in tip-top physical condition) showed up, wrestled the interloper around a bit, then flung him right through the brick wall and into the canal below. Of course, this left a pretty good-sized hole, and the real danger that the Devil just might let himself back into the palazzo by way of it. The solution was to secure and cover it up with a high relief memorial featuring that fierce angel, both to express the neighborhood’s gratitude and to serve as a warning to you-know-who. See it here for yourself!

I can’t speak for the Devil’s residency habits, but believe you me, the folks in this area still tell the story of Palazzo Soranzo with dead-serious faces. I wouldn’t dream of suggesting it might not be true.