Campo San Luca (St. Luca Square)

[historic image of Campo San Luca]In 1721, according to the Executioner’s records, a boy from the old Pharmacy in Campo San Luca was beheaded and then quartered for murdering and then stealing from a prostitute. Because there used to be a sign outside the old pharmacy depicting an old woman, the custom came about of preparing a particular spectacle each year half-way through Lent: that of burning the effigy of an old woman.

The square was decorated with flags and damask cloth. A wooden platform "about three men high" was built upon which was placed a puppet in the shape of a haggard old woman with a white cap on her head. Many other games were played on this occasion. Perhaps the most enjoyable was the one where you had to catch with your mouth a live eel placed behind a tub of water dyed black. Those that tried it were often splashed with the water in the attempt.

Music and good wine livened things up and at the end the effigy of the old woman was cut in two letting out flowers and confetti for the children to enjoy. With time, it became the custom to burn the old woman.

In the square is a marble pedestal which in the olden days had a flag-pole where a standard would flutter on public holidays. Many Venetians believe this square is at the very heart of the city.