The Doge Pietro Tradonico left sated and well-disposed the church San Zaccaria. He crossed the portal, stepped out from the hardly illuminated church into the warm springtime sun that warmed and blinded him. The Campo (Ven. "Square") was filled with his subjects that tried to get a glimpse of the events and their Doge who was only to be seen during official public festivities (just like Easter) in all his pomp and lustre.
Suddenly the crowd divided itself, people were shoved away and a man jumped at Pietro Tradonico. He had a knife in his hand: Pietro didn’t have time to react, just like his companions. He was still lazy after the delicious Easter banquet and blinded by the strong springtime sun. The knife sank in his body and he heard screams around him before sinking to the ground...dead.
With his murder ended the reign of Pietro Tradonico in the year 864, a time signed by violent quarrels among the Venetian society. The doge tried to calm the waters, but was labelled as a tyran by the people and thus killed during the Easter festivities.
When did the Easter procession to San Zaccaria start?
Pope Benedict III visited the convent of San Zaccaria in 855. He was impressed by the virginal god-fearing nuns. Thus he decided, after his return to Rome, to gift them precious relics to thank them for their hospitality.
This appreciation from the Pope lead to a new tradition in Venice
Each andevery year, after the Easter ceremony in Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Doge visited (first by foot, then with pompous boats) the nuns of San Zaccaria. The first solemn procession took place under the Doge Pietro Tradonico (who was murdered right in front of the church).
A kingly gift
The abbess Morosini felt very honoured and decided together with the other nuns to thankthe Republic with a very special gift: A ducal horn. Not any ducal horn, but acrown made out of pure gold with 24 pearls shaped like pears. On top there was a diamond of unseen size and divine sheen combined with a ruby that glowed like fire. In the centre sat a cross decorated with precious gems. This precious gift, called the “Zoia”, was appreciated so much by the Doge and the Republic that it was used from that day forth exclusively in occasion of the crowning ceremonies of the Doges.
With one exception …
The Republic decided to present this crown during the Easter ceremony to the Doge and the nuns of San Zaccaria in order give them the joy to see the „Zoia“ (in Italian “Gioia” or “Joy” in English) again.
Where is the Zoia today?
With the end of the Republic in 1797 ends also the story of the Zoia: The era of the Serenissima had ended and so the Zoia was destroyed, a symbolic act that signed irrevocably the end of the maritime Republic.
Another spectacular sight in the Church of San Zaccaria is ...
...the submerged crypt. Now, if you got curious and would like to discover the history of the Church, it's artworks and one of the most fascinating crypts of Venice, feel free to contact us for a tailor made tour.