The legend of the lawyer’s monkey develops in the area of the Ponte de l’Angelo, located near Piazza San Marco. At the top of the bridge, you can see a particular palace, where the high relief of an angel, sculpted in the act of blessing a globe surmounted by a cross, is beautifully displayed. It is not known if the palace belonged to the Nani or Soranzo family, but it doesn’t matter. After all, not even the Capuchin friars who have handed down this story are asking themselves this question.
Around the middle of the sixteenth century in that palace had his home a lawyer of the ducal Curia who did not enjoy a good reputation: it was said that his wealth had been accumulated thanks to cheating and deception, of which the poor people were victims. But he denied, firmly denied, and almost to show that he was a pious man, he proclaimed at all times his devotion to Our Lady. He often frequented the Capuchin convent, to which he never failed to donate donations and gifts; yet, despite his generosity, his patrimony mysteriously continued to grow, as did his reputation as a dishonest man.
One day, the superior of the Capuchin friars, Father Matthew, arranged to be invited by his lawyer. At the agreed time, Father Matthew had the doorman open the door and entered the magnificent house of the lawyer. He was amazed, not so much by the richness of the furniture, paintings and furnishings as by the presence of a monkey.
The servant immediately explained that the monkey was intelligent and clever enough to help with the household chores. Father Matthew tried to get close to the animal, but it immediately turned around, climbed the four-legged stairs and went to hide under the bed. Father Matthew was a man of the world, and it didn’t take him long to discover a demonic presence in this animal. Then he stood up on the bed and said: “Reveal yourself for what you are, monkey!”. And the monkey from under the bed spoke in a shrill voice: “I am the devil and I have come to this house to take the soul of this lawyer. He owes me many of his titles and riches”. Then Father Matthew asked: “And why haven’t you taken him to hell with you yet?”. There was a moment of silence, then the voice of the monkey was still heard: “Because every evening that man prays to Our Lady. If he prays, I cannot take him away. But it’s enough for him to forget about it once, just once…then he will come with me to burn in the flames!”.
Meanwhile the lawyer had arrived, who remained at the door of the room without saying a word.
Father Matthew joined his hands, gathered his strength, then opened his arms wide, and with a powerful and clear voice ordered: “Devil, in the name of the Almighty and merciful Lord, I command you to leave this house!” And he remained motionless… Underneath the bed, he felt a travesty, a wheezing breath, then: “I can’t”.
The old Capuchin dropped his arms, looked at his feet, and said: “And why?”. And the monkey: “Because I am the devil, and I cannot leave this house without doing at least some damage. Father Matthew to that answer turned to the wall, pointed in front of him and said: “You will do some damage. Now you will come out of the house by breaking through the wall, there, right next to the window”. And he added: “Now!” No one was able to see anything in time: neither the lawyer, nor the servant who was all frightened behind him, nor the Capuchin father. All they could see now was a big hole in the wall, and a lot of dust that was slowly settling around it.
Father Matthew got out of bed and said to the lawyer: “So, this little lunch?”. The lawyer immediately collected himself and kindly sat the father superior in the other room, where a richly decorated table awaited them, covered with a very fine white linen tablecloth. During dinner Father Matthew took a strip of the white tablecloth and twisted it for a long time until blood began to drip. He made the sign of the cross and said “This is the blood of the poor people that you have sucked with all your unjust extortion”. After dinner, before returning to the monastery, the lawyer asked “What about the hole in the wall left by the devil?”
Father Matthew turned towards the bedroom, thought about it for a moment and said: “Instead of the hole, when you rebuild the wall, on the outside, so that everyone can see it, you will put the statue of an angel. You will no longer have to fear, the evil angels will flee from his sight”. And so ends the legend of the lawyer’s monkey.
Location: Ponte de l’Angelo, Venice