The ” Mouths of the Leon”
(Bocche del leone) can still be seen in Venice, despite dating back to the times of the Serenissima republic.Still can be admired for their spectacular on Palazzo Ducale, on the wall of the church of S. Mary of the Visitation (Maria della visitasione a Zattere), the Church of St. Martin ( Castello), and St. Moses (in San Marco district)
After the attempted coup tented by Baiamonte Tiepolo, in 1310, were built in Venice several “Bocche di leone ” (Boche de Leon) or Mouths for the secret complaints (the Boche de le denuntie), similar to nowdays post boxes.It is so called because in the reliefs of white marble was carved an image of a face of a lion,to remember the lion of St. Mark, the symbol of the Venetian state, or a bad face expression.In place of the mouth there was a hole to insert sheets of paper with the secret complaints.
The complaints could relate various types of crimes including the non-compliance to health,blasphemy or tax evasion . Were distributed at least one in each district, near the Judiciary places, the Doge’s Palace or the churches, and were used to collect information,reports or accusations against those who did the various crimes.
Only the heads of the District could go to the back of the wall where the various cassettes was, whose keys were kept by the Magistrates, and each of them picked up the accusations for a different type of offense: on charges of tax evasion, related to the blasphemers, and various others.
The Elders of the Ten (I Savi dei Dieci) and the Directors of the Ten ( Consiglieri dei Dieci) accept anonymous complaints only if at stake was the State safety ,and with the approval of the five/sixths of the voters. But it was not so easy as you may think , to accuse someone. In 1387 the Council of Ten ordered that anonymous allegations sent,without signature of the accuser and without reliable witnesses for the prosecution on the circumstances reported , were to be burned without take no account .
In 1542 it was decreed a law that established the acceptance of complaints were quoted only if at least three witnesses was present at the event .
The most dangerous secret denunciations were those who were presented with
charges of treason and conspiracy against the State.Through the mouths of the lion and the secret complaints were discovered many crimes of which would never come to the attention, with serious damage to the Republic of Venice. Probably , however, were also accused and imprisoned the innocents.
The Council of Ten scrupulously applied the law established by the “Avogadri dello Stato” investigators.It was necessary to conduct a thorough investigation to establish the truth , justice and clarity , do not judge anyone on the basis of suspicions, but research evidence in practice , and at the end a true judgment .
Of course, these days you can simply email your denunciations directly to the “Comune di Venezia”, though I have to wonder if anyone still checks the bocche for random grievances left by a less techno-literate veneziano in the dead of night.
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