Near the Rialto Bridge, in front of the church of San Giacometto, there is a short staircase resting on a statue. For the Venetians it is “the Hunchback of Rialto”. In reality the hunchback is not such at all. It is a representation of a person bent by effort.
The famous statue of the ‘Gobbo di Rialto’ in Campo San Giacometto represents a man kneeling under the weight of the staircase that served to reach the trunk of a column from which the new laws of the Serenissima were banned.
Sculpted in 1541 by Pietro da Salò, it was strategically placed in this place, the economic heart of the Republic, frequented by merchants and businessmen. From the small stage at the top of the column, called ‘Piera del Bando’, a messenger read out the documents announcing the most important decisions of the Venetian state and the death sentences were also made public.
Even for those who had committed a non-serious crime and were considered guilty, after the trial they were sentenced to whipping. Their torment began between the columns of Marco and Todaro in Piazzetta San Marco, they crossed all the Mercerie and the Rialto bridge between the wings of the crowd that raged over them. The torture ended in Campo San Giacometto, where the penalty ended with a kiss to the statue of the Hunchback. Shortly thereafter, the kiss to the Hunchback of Rialto was replaced by the kiss to the ‘Croce dei Frustai’, a metal cross set in a pillar of the nearby ‘portego’, the entrance to a Venetian palace.
Location: Il Gobbo di Rialto – Google Maps