Lion’s mouth

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Visiting the Doge’s Palace you come across a particular bas-relief which portrays a sort of threatening-looking mask with a crack in place of the mouth. Still walking through the Palazzo, if you look carefully, you can see other simple cracks on the walls.

These are the famous Bocche di Leone (Lion’s Mouth).

We must go back in time to 1310 when, following the conspiracy held on by  Bajamonte Tiepolo, these Bocche di Leone were built throughout the city of Venice for secret accusations

Similar to mailboxes they were embedded in the walls of some churches and palaces, such as Palazzo Ducale.

The operation was rather simple: through the mouth the letter was slipped and fell into the box and they could be collected thanks to a small door on the other side of the wall.

Complaints could concern multiple types of crimes such as, for example, blasphemy and tax evasion, and each specific crime corresponded to a Bocca, but the complaints could not be anonymous, they had to be signed and contain the names of 3 witnesses.

But why the name Bocca di leone? They were so called because the image of a lion was carved in the bas-relief, in memory of the lion of San Marco, symbol of the Serenissima Republic. With the fall of the Venetian Republic at the hands of Napoleon in 1797 many mailboxes were dismantled; that’s why we find only a simple crack as evidence of their existence.

Would you like to know more? Are you curious about the system of complaints and how did the Venetians investigate to establish the truth? We are waiting for you