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Monuments of Piazza Erbe: the "Berlina"

Berlina or Capitello in Piazza Erbe


This monument was the very centre of the city's manifold activities. You could find also dead wolves, exposed here after having caused panic in the countryside. Let's just call it "capitello": erected in 1207, it was an useful instrument to dictate the unit of measure to the traders.

What can be still secret and unknown in Piazza Erbe? This square is the place most well-known in our city with Piazza Bra. The monument is located in the centre and has been mistakenly called “berlina", a sort of monumental pillory for public humiliation and punishment.

According to the historic Gerolamo Dalla Corte, it was erected in 1207 by Azzo d'Este, the "podestà" (local governor) at the time, and it certainly existed in the thirteenth century, because the Statuti Veronesi mentioned the monument. Today it has a strict architectural form of classical inspiration, while the original “berlina” was supposed to be in elegant gothic forms. Furthermore, the letters engraved on the column (you can see also a chain on it) are Roman uppercase ones coming from the fifteenth century system for measure: "FOR" (stick), "BRAS" (arm) and "PASSUS" (step, foot). Instead, on west side there are engraved the word "copo" (the tile) and the word "quarel" (brick) coming from the Medieval Age, while the iron round chain, which is fixed to the column toward Via Pellicciai, was in use to understand the extent of the "fassina" (bundle of wood-sticks). Instead of “berlina” (a sort of pillory), better to call this monument the "capitello". It is a kind of canopy in marble: on one side there is a tub for bathing. It was the centre of multiple events of the ancient and modern city life: the commercial activities, but also the political power and the administration of the justice had their moments close to the column.



The monument had a chair of marble (today disappeared): the new "podestà" sat on it to receive the keys of Verona and the wand, both emblems of his power. The “pretore” (judge) sat on it, too, when he express in public his oath for loyalty and justice. A flag, situated on its top, reminded the people some of the rules in the market: as long as it was up, wholesalers had to sell directly to consumers, not to the retailers. To show who they are, male had to wear a turquoise hat, while women had to wear a turquoise sleeve attached to their brest, also during festivity and holidays. The“capitello” also was a place of "exposure" of the thieves and misbehaving individuals: a chapter of the Statuti Veronesi reveals that the boys couldn't run horses in the city or in the villages. The charge for that was of 40 pounds, and if you couldn't afford to pay the fine, you could be put in chain to the “capitello”, until the “podestà” and the “curia” (tribunal) wanted you to be there. The prisoners could be also thrown in the tub for three times at the sound of the trumpet.



The blasphemers, which did not actually pay their own fine, could be brutally thrown for three times in the tub in winter, and always around the “capitello”you could be beaten with rods for three times in other seasons. During the period of Venetian Verona, the heads of the dead bandits were hanging from the "capitello" and even the wolves were hanging up from here. Not only tragedy or market around the famous monument: everyone in Verona still recall a famous joke held in August 3, 1579, when two stone heads appeared on it: they belonged to Palazzo dei Puoti, located in via San Cosimo. It was at

the time the property of the Turkish family.

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