Marino Faliero (1279-1355)
From 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Marino Faliero (1279-1355), , a.k.a. Falier and Failieri, was a doge of Venice.
He belonged to one of the oldest and most illustrious Venetian families and had served the republic with distinction in various capacities. In 1346 he commanded the Venetian land forces at the siege of Zara, where he was attacked by the Hungarians under King Louis the Great and totally defeated them; this victory led to the surrender of the city.
In September 1354, while absent on a mission to Pope Innocent IV. at Avignon, Faliero was elected doge, an honour which apparently he had not sought. His reign began, as it was to end, in disaster, for very soon after his election the Venetian fleet was completely destroyed by the Genoese off the island of Sapienza, while plague and a declining commerce aggravated the situation.
Although a capable commander and a good statesman, Faliero possessed a violent temper, and after his election developed great ambition. The constitutional restrictions of the ducal power, which had been further curtailed just before his election, and the insolence of the nobility aroused in him a desire to free himself from all control, and the discontent of the arsenal hands at their treatment by the nobles offered him his opportunity. In concert with a sea-captain named Bertuccio Ixarella (who had received a blow from the noble Giovanni Dandolo), Filippo Calendario, a stonemason, and others, a plot was laid to murder the chief patricians on the 15th of April and proclaim Faliero prince of Venice.
But there was much ferment in the city and disorders broke out before the appointed time; some of the conspirators having made revelations, the Council of Ten proceeded to arrest the ringleaders and to place armed guards all over the town. Several of the conspirators were condemned to death and others to various terms of imprisonment. The doge's complicity having been discovered, he was himself arrested; at the trial he confessed everything and was condemned and executed on the 17th of April 1355.
The story of the insult written by Michele Steno on the doge's chair is a legend of which no record is found in any contemporary authority. The motives of Faliero are not altogether clear, as his past record, even in the judgment of the poet Petrarch, showed him as a wise, clear-headed man of no unusual ambition. But possibly the attitude of the aristocracy and the example offered by the tyrants of neighbouring cities may have induced him to attempt a similar policy. The only result of the plot was to consolidate the power of the Council of Ten.
Having been condemned to damnatio memoriae, his portrait displayed in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Hall of the Great Council) in the Doge's Palace was removed and the space painted over with a black shroud, which can still be seen in the hall today. An inscription reads: Hic est locus Marini Faletro decapitati pro criminibus ("This is the location of Marino Faliero, beheaded for his crimes").
The story of Marino Faliero's uprising was made into a drama by Lord Byron in 1820 and an opera by Gaetano Donizetti in 1835.
An account of Marino Faliero's reign is given in:
For special works see V. Lazzerini's "Genealogia d. M. Faliero" in the Archivio Veneto of 1892; "M. Faliero avanti ii Dogado," ibid. (1893), and his exhaustive study "M. Faliero, la Congiura," ibid. (1897). The most recent essay on the subject is contained in Horatio Brown's Studies in Venetian History (London, 1907), wherein all the authorities are set forth. (L. V.*)
From Horatio Forbes Brown (1854-1926), Studies in the History of Venice, Vol 1, John Murray (London, 1907), p. 79-106. (An earlier version was also published in The Edinburgh Review or Critical Journal: for July, 1906-October, 1906, Article X., p. 221-238.):
 Of the two great conspiracies which shook the State of Venice — the conspiracy of Bajamonte Tiepolo and the conspiracy of Marino Falier — the latter has attracted by far the larger share of attention, and has taken its place permanently as one of the stirring episodes in the annals of the Republic. This, no doubt, is largely due to the dramatic character of the story as currently told. The fiery old warrior Doge, insulted in the honour of his wife by a ribald young noble, exasperated against the whole body of the Venetian aristocracy by the inadequate punishment meted out to his offender, conceived the idea of murderous revenge, and put himself at the head of a conspiracy — fomented chiefly among the middle and lower classes — to slaughter the entire governing caste. The plot was discovered only just in time, and the Doge and his accomplices paid the penalty with their lives. The thrilling spectacle of the black veil over the place where the Doge's portrait should be, in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, has helped to fix the attention and rouse the curiosity of thousands of tourists. Byron (1) fastened upon the story and made it the subject of his finest play, though he misreads the intention of the Doge, painting him as a friend of liberty, anxious to free the people from the intolerable tyranny of the oligarchy, and importing  into his drama modern ideas quite foreign to the period. It happens, therefore, that the story of Marino Falier's conspiracy occupies a far larger place in popular imagination than does the conspiracy of Tiepolo, though the one created the Council of Ten, while the other merely demonstrated its supremacy.
Marin Sanudo, in the Lives of the Doges (2), has hitherto been the principal authority for the story as related by most modern historians, and though recent criticism has rejected as legendary many of the more picturesque episodes, still we shall see, by a comparison of the current and the critical accounts, that after all the proverb is justified which says "there's aye some water where they say the stirkie was droun'd." The larger part of Sanudo's tale is based, he says, upon "an ancient chronicle," which has not yet been identified. It is from Sanudo that we get the picturesque touches — unrecorded by any contemporary document — of the blow administered to the Bishop of Treviso who kept Falier waiting when he was governor of the city; of the landing in the fog; of Steno's insolent conduct to one of the Dogaressa's maids of honour at a ball in the Ducal Palace; of his expulsion by order of the Doge; of the revenge he took by scribbling on the Ducal throne the ribald lines (3):
It is Sanudo, too, who tells us of the mild punishment (4) inflicted on Steno, and the Doge's indignation at this slight to his person; of the quarrel between a gentleman of the Barbaro family and one of the arsenal hands, who sought redress from the Doge, of Falier's  bitter protest that he was impotent in face of the insolent aristocracy. It is Sanudo who gives us the conversation which followed, and the suggestion that the doge, with the help of the arsenal hands, should make himself lord of Venice, cut the nobles to pieces, and so avenge both insults. For the rest of the story Sanudo agrees with the earlier and better authorities.
These authorities have recently been most carefully examined, compared, and arranged in order of value by Signor Vittorio Lazzarini, in a work (5) which is no doubt the final word on the narrative of the Marino Falier conspiracy. Following Signor Lazzarini, we may take these authorities in the following order:
Naturally we turn first to the archives at the Frari and to the documents of the Council of Ten, the tribunal that tried and sentenced the Doge. The papers relating to the epoch of Marino Falier are contained in the series marked Misti, reg. (5/4), the volume being really volume 5, numbered 4 in error. There, on the recto of folio 33, between the documents of April 8,1355, and the election of officers for the month of May — that is to say, in the place where the documents relating to the conspiracy should have appeared — we find a blank space with "Non scribatur" twice written on the margin. This phrase "Be it not written," has given rise to fanciful conjectures on the part of such good scholars as Romanin and Rawdon Brown. "Un onorevole pudor," writes Romanin, "forse ritenne quei giudici dallo scrivere il nome del capo della repubblica"; (6) and Rawdon Brown supposes that the marginal note indicates some unusual procedure  on the part of the Ten. As a matter of fact "Non scribatur" is a common formula of the Venetian chancellery, indicating that the space opposite the marginal note was to be left blank for the reception of documents not yet ready for registration. Had "Non scribatur" meant that the space was to be left blank permanently, the words would naturally have been written in the centre of the space and not in the margin. The fact that "Non "scribatur" is repeated twice indicates that two documents were to have been inserted, but it is by no means certain that these documents referred to the case of Marino Falier. It is more probable that the whole of the papers relating to the conspiracy were collected in a separate volume.
This conjecture is supported by the fact that in the margin of a decree of the Ten (7) dated January 13, 1355-56, providing that the sentences in the Falier case shall never be revoked, we find the phrase, "Ponatur in libro processuum"; and in a marginal note to the decree of May 7, 1355, instituting the procession on Saint Isidore's day, we read the signs "M.F. c.5," in all probability referring to fol. 5 of this book thus indicated by the initials of Marino Falier's name. (8) The "book of the trials" is now unfortunately lost, and the papers of the Council of Ten tell us next to nothing about the most remarkable case that ever came before that court.
But as regards the episode of Steno's insult to the Doge which contributed to precipitate the conspiracy, thanks to the industry of Sanudo, we have the copy ((9) of several trials before the Avvogadori di Comun, which, as we shall see when we come to narrate the events of the conspiracy, give us the true version of the Steno episode. This is all that can be found in the archives at the Frari.
Among the contemporary inedited evidence the first  place undoubtedly belongs to the chronicle of Nicolò Trevisan (10) of Sant'Angelo, who was one of the Ten when the Doge was tried and executed. (11) He was subsequently Governor of Crete, and died Procurator of San Marco in 1369. Apart from the fact that Trevisan was a contemporary and also an actor in the drama, his account commands attention by its accuracy and its sobriety. Following Trevisan we have the contemporary chronicle of Pietro Giustinian (12) (1360). An anonymous chronicler (13), writing in 1396, adds some further facts; while the chronicle of Antonio Morosini (14) gives us one important passage as to the cause of the conspiracy.
Of published Venetian evidence the most valuable is the chronicle of Lorenzo de Monacis. (15) Lorenzo was a scholar, a poet, an historian, a statesman, having served as Grand Chancellor in Crete, and his narrative is full and convincing. Unfortunately, however, it stops abruptly in the very middle of the story of Falier's conspiracy. Rafaino Caresini, Notary ducal at the time, and afterwards Grand Chancellor of the Republic, (16) who probably knew the truth, hardly mentions the subject, restrained, no doubt, by the delicacy of his position as an official. Among the foreign evidence we get two contemporaries, Petrarch, who knew Falier intimately, "vir ab olim mihi familiariter notus," (17) and Matteo Villani, who seems to have had sound information from some contemporary correspondent in Venice.
Finally, among later writers who treat of the Falier conspiracy we have Sabellico's De Vitis Principum;  Sanudo, whose Cronaca Antica we have already discussed; a chronicle attributed to Zancarolo (18); the chronicle of Daniele Barbaro, who claims to base his narrative on secret papers, though he varies but slightly from the Sanudo legends; and many others whose accounts of the episode may be broadly classed as following either the Cronaca Trevisan or Sanudo.
Following the more trustworthy of these authorities — that is to say, first, such few official documents as survive, and secondly, the Chronicle of Nicolò Trevisan and the Chronicle of Lorenzo de Monacis — we may proceed to reconstruct the story of Marino Falier and his conspiracy.
Perhaps in no state of importance equal to that of Venice are we left in such obscurity as to the personal details of its great men; material for biographies of leading Venetian statesmen and soldiers is singularly scanty. Venice demanded and secured the effacement of the individual, and impressed upon its citizens, one and all, that the State was everything, the individual nothing. The consequence is that the life of a distinguished Venetian, in so far as we can recover it, is little more than a bare record of the offices he filled; his policy, his ability, his achievements are rarely associated with his own name, and are to be looked for, not in the history of the man, but in the developement of the State. So it is with Marino Falier. He belonged to that branch of the family which was settled in the parish of the SS. Apostoli, and was born between the years 1280-1285, probably in the family palace which looks across the Rio dei Santi Apostoli to the cupola of the church, and is carried on columns over a sottoportico. His father was Jacopo Falier, and his mother Beriola Loredan; his blood therefore was of the oldest in Venice, and his connexions of the highest. We know hardly anything of his youth. In all probability  he attended the school of some grammarian and then passed into commercial life, frequenting the Rialto and making voyages in the trading galleys. In due time he would take his seat in the Great Council and begin his political career. In 1315, when he was about thirty years of age, we find him one of the Chiefs of the Ten, and in 1320 he is dealing with English affairs in the Great Council. (19) In January of 1320 he was entrusted with the delicate and dangerous mission of hunting down (sollicite et attente) the conspirators Bajamonte Tiepolo and Piero Quirini. From this time onwards Marino Falier was constantly employed either on missions abroad or in public offices at home. His knowledge of affairs was enlarged by his services as Governor of Negropont in 1323, of Lesina and Brazsa in 1334, of Ghioggia in 1337, 1342, 1344, and 1349. In 1335 he married Aluica Gradenigo, a niece of the great Doge Piero Gradenigo, who carried the Serrata del Maggior Consiglio and established the aristocratic caste — a marriage which doubtless tended to strengthen Falier's social position and political influence. He was now fifty years old. When Treviso came into the hands of Venice in 1339 Falier was appointed its first Governor, and it was at Treviso, during the period of his second governorship in 1346, that legend relates how, on Corpus Domini day, in the Cathedral, Falier, in a fit of blind fury, struck the bishop who was bearing the Host, because he had kept the procession waiting — a deed which is said to have called down the wrath of heaven, and to have led him to ruin, though no chroniclers, whether Trevisan or Venetian earlier than the middle of the following century, mention the episode, the strict veracity of which we may question, though it doubtless gives us some indication of the reputed temper of the man. By this time Falier's name had spread beyond the borders  of Venice, and we find him twice called to act as podestà in Padua, where he acquired the friendship of the Carraresi and probably made the acquaintance of Petrarch. In July 1349, with the consent of the Republic, Falier received from the Count-Bishop of Ceneda the investiture of the fief of Val di Marena near Serravalle in the Marca Trevigiana, and assumed the title of Count of Val di Marena.
Nor was his reputation as a diplomatist and a soldier less striking. He served on embassies to Avignon, to the Duke of Austria, to the Republic of Genoa (when the friction between the rival maritime States was approaching a burning point over trade in the Black Sea), to the Emperor Charles IV., 1350 (on which occasion he was knighted and named privy councillor. Falier, moreover, achieved distinction both in the army and in the fleet. He was captain of the galleys of Constantinople and the Black Sea, with commission to protect Venetian trade; he took a brilliant part in the siege of Zara, which had rebelled; he was serving under Civran and acquired for himself the epithet "audax," when that general won the glorious victory of July 1346, over the King of Hungary. In 1348 he was elected to the supreme command of the forces sent to reduce Capo d' Istria, but did not arrive in time to take an active part in the operations. Later on, in 1352, he conducted a successful marauding campaign against the Genoese, and on behalf of the Republic he was put in possession of the island of Tenedos by the Emperor, John Palaeologus. Yet in spite of all this activity abroad, Falier was no less fully occupied at home; he sat on commissions for enlarging the Merceria, and for putting down usury; he was in trading partnership with his brother Ordelafo and his cousin Nicolò. Among his family and his friends he was held in the highest esteem; his uncle Marino made him executor of his will; his brother left him absolutely free to dispose of his whole estate; he was frequently called to  arbitrate between conflicting parties. (20) In the opinion of his contemporaries he stood very high. Petrarch bears witness to his reputation for wisdom, a reputation which the poet regretfully admits was ill-founded; Matteo Villani records his valour and his judgement; Lorenzo de Monacis declares him to have been reputatila tanto gavitatis; every writer expresses surprise and regret at his fall. In fact, in Marino Falier we have a fine figure of a Venetian noble in the Middle Ages — active, capable, respected, enjoying a great position and displaying striking ability; and yet this is the man who, within eight months of his election to the supreme dignity in the State, threw all to the winds and embarked on an enterprise as rash as it was criminal. No wonder that his conduct amazed and puzzled his contemporaries and has left the explanation of his conspiracy among the obscure problems of Venetian history.
On September 7, 1354 the Doge, Andrea Dandolo, died. The Great Council met for the election of the five Correttori detta Commissione ducale, or revisers of the coronation oath, that powerful weapon which the aristocracy employed to restrict the authority of the doge. On the 9th the Correttori presented their proposed modifications. It is important to bear these in mind, for they may possibly have contributed to engender in Falier his hatred of the governing caste, the new aristocrcy which had consolidated itself on the ruins of the Tiepolo conspiracy. The amendments were conceived in the usual spirit; their intention was to curtail the ducal power and prestige. Besides forbidding the Doge to receive or to answer any diplomatic agent except in the presence of four ducal councillors and two chiefs of the Quarantia, the new Doge was bound to observe all the regulations laid down for the guidance of his Council; the doge's intervention in matters financial and juridical  was further limited, and modifications and reductions were made in his salary and his dues. The Great Council approved the amendments, and then, after a prayer pro bono duce, and after having taken the oath to abide by the result of the coming election, the Council proceeded to nominate the forty-one electors. It seems that Falier's name was already in the air, for a special order was passed declaring that if a noble who was absent from Venice should be elected the regency should be put in commission till his return. This, in all probability, referred to Falier, who was then on an embassy to the Pope at Avignon. The forty-one then proceeded to write the names of the proposed candidates. Four names were put forward; on casting lots, the name of Falier came up first. A ballot was taken on his candidature and resulted in his securing thirty-five votes. Falier was accordingly elected Doge of Venice on September 11, 1354, while absent from the country, "ducatus honor non petenti, imo quidem ignaro sibi obtigit." (21) The same day he was proclaimed and confirmed in a general assembly of the entire Venetian population. The day following, the notary Stefano Ziera was sent to Verona with orders to procure from the Lord of Milan a safe-conduct for Falier's journey through Lombardy. This done, Ziera set out for Avignon to inform Falier of his election, and to present to the Pope and Cardinals the Republic's letters conveying the news. But Falier had already left Avignon, and on September 28 it was known in Venice that the new Doge was at hand. Twelve nobles were elected as a solemn embassy to the Prince; each took with him one noble and three pages as his suite. They met the Doge at Verona and brought him to Padua on Friday, October 3. At Padua they found waiting them fifteen ganzaroli — long light boats with a covered cabin at the stern, rowed by thirty oars — and they started on their way down the Brenta. On Sunday  the 5th, they reached the lagoon at Fusina, where lay the Bucintoro and a crowd of boats come out from Venice. The Doge went on board the great barge, and the tale goes that while crossing the lagoon a thick mist came down, so that the Bucintoro ran into the mud at S. Giorgio in Alega and remained there fast. The doge and his company took to the lighter boats and were brought to Venice, where, by an error due to the fog, he landed not at the Ponte della Paglia, but opposite the two columns of the Piazzetta — a place of evil augury as the scene pf public executions. The doge passed between the columns on his way to S. Marco — an ominous fact noted by Petrarch immediately after the doge's death ("sinistro pede palatium ingressus"). In the church of S. Marco Falier was presented to the people and acclaimed, and then, on the upper landing-place of the stone staircase (22) leading from the loggia down into the courtyard of the ducal palace, he took the coronation oath and received the ducal bonnet.
When Falier came to the throne the condition of Venice was far from satisfactory, and there was general discontent for various reasons among all classes. The Genoese war was still raging; Genoa, after the crushing defeat of Lojera, had placed herself under the protection of Visconti, thereby complicating the situation. Venetian trade, especially in the Levant and in the Black Sea, was suffering severely from the desultory marauding campaign, which was conducted chiefly by raids on Venetian shipping. The merchant class, therefore, and all who depended on them were in a state of irritation and anxious for peace, which, rightly or wrongly, they supposed the nobles to be opposing. Falier himself had failed in his negotiations  at Avignon which were directed to that end. A few years earlier, in 1348, a great earthquake had brought down campaniles and houses, and this was followed by the terrible plague of that year, when the lazar-boats went through the canals of the city to the cry of "Corpi morti — corpi morti!" and the living flung the dead (23) from the windows on to the ghastly heap. Falier had not been long on the throne when the public mind was still further alarmed and exasperated by the serious defeat at Portolungo or Sapienza, whereby the Republic lost the whole of her fleet and the Adriatic, and Venice itself seemed to be at the mercy of the Genoese. This crushing reverse was entirely due to the negligence of some of the nobles in command, and the fact no doubt helped to intensify the discontent against the governing caste. Furthermore, the political disfranchisement, brought about by the closing of the Great Council, was still rankling in the minds of many well-born and well-to-do citizens, who found themselves excluded from all share in the government. The disorder and insolence of the young nobles, coupled with their incompetence at sea, justified the growing hatred. (24) The doge's action on receipt of the news from Sapienza is noteworthy in view of the tragedy so soon to overtake him. To counteract the effects of the defeat, he caused three experienced seamen, chosen from among the people, not from the nobles, to be appointed to the command of flying squadrons destined to harry the Genoese, and his choice was fully justified by the result. The successes of Berti Vido, Piero Nani, Costantino Zucuol stood out in high relief against the pusillanimity of the noble Nicolò Quirini, while the people began to feel that in the doge they had a sovereign who was not entirely the slave of the ruling caste.
 While the political atmosphere of Venice was in this tense condition, on November 10, 1354, the Avvogadori di Comun received instructions to proceed against certain persons accused of having written insulting words and drawn offensive figures in the "chamber of the chimneys" in the private apartments of the Doge ("in magnum dedecus et vituperium totius terre"). Accordingly the following young nobles, Micheleto Steno, Pietro Bolani, Rizardo Marioni, Moreto Zorzi, Micheleto de Molin, and Mafeo Morosini, were arrested and tried. On November 20 the following sentences were passed: Michel Steno to be imprisoned for the rest of the month — that is, for ten days — Pietro Bolani to be imprisoned till the following Monday; Rizardo Marioni, who had drawn offensive figures as well as writing insulting words, to be imprisoned till the following Tuesday; while Zorzi, de Molino, and Morosini were acquitted. (25) So far the official account; there is no mention of the dogaressa, but it is explicitly stated that the insults were levelled at the Doge and his nephew ("scripsit multa enormia verba loquentia in vituperium domini ducis et ejus nepotis"). The account in the official documents is confirmed by Lorenzo de Monacis, but under an on dit. "Fama fuit" he writes, "quod se movit ad tantum flagitium" [i.e. the conspiracy] quia aliqui adolescentuli nobiles scripserunt in angulis interioris palatii aliqua verba ignominiosa, et quod ipse magis incanduit quoniam adolescentuli illi parva fuerant animadversione puniti"; and Lorenzo de Monacis is borne out by the Chronicle of Antonio Morosini (26) which reports: "Alguna inzuria per alguny zovenety fioli de zintilomeni Veniexia di quel inzustamente fo ponidy." The contemporary authority, Nicolò Trevisan, is silent upon the point, but we must remember that this writer begins his narrative with the conspiracy itself,  not with the preceding insult. (27) Lorenzo de Monacis and Antonio Morosini then confirm the fact of the insult to the Doge as given by the official documents, and add that he was further incensed by the lightness of the punishment inflicted on the culprits, and they connect the Doge's anger on this occasion with his share in the subsequent conspiracy; but in these earliest and best authorities there is no aspersion on the honour of the dogaressa — a legend introduced at a later period and traceable to Sanudo and his anonymous Cronaca Antica. Lazzarini conjectures that there was an ancient family feud between the Falier and Steno families, basing his supposition on the fact that in August 1343 Saray Falier, daughter of Ser Piero Falier of San Maurizio, brought an action against Paulo Steno of San Geremia for house-breaking and rape committed on her person with the connivance of two of her servants, Beta, a German waiting-woman, and Zanino da Cremona, a lackey in the Falier house. (28) Steno was condemned to a year's imprisonment and three hundred lire damages. Lazzarini's conjecture is ingenious and probable, and young Michel Steno, when insulting thedoge in his private apartments, may very likely have been expressing the feelings of his family, though the looseness of manners prevailing in Venice made such episodes common enough.
The insult took place in November, and we must suppose the Doge to have been nursing his wrath in silence during the next four months, for there is no record of any action on his part which would indicate that his mind was set on active revenge. But the popular dissatisfaction with the governing caste was also smouldering, and in April 1355 an event happened which brought the two currents of feeling  into contact, and revealed the doge's mind to the people and the people's mind to the doge.
In the council chamber of the Admiralty a quarrel suddenly sprang up between Giovanni Dandolo, a noble, and Bertuccio Ixarello, a sea-captain of great weight among the seafearing population. (29) Dandolo struck Bertuccio, who left the palace in a fury, and gathering his friends about him in the piazzetta began to walk up and down between the two columns and the Pietra del Bando at the Santa Sofia angle of S. Marco, waiting till Dandolo should come out. Dandolo was aware of the threatening attitude of the mob, and denounced the gathering to the government. The doge and his Council summoned Bertuccio to their presence and severely reprimanded him, telling him that if he had a quarrel with Dandolo he must bring it before the appointed Court.
Sanudo again is responsible for a more highly coloured version of the case: Bertuccio's face cut open by Dandolo's ring; Bertuccio's private interview with the doge, and Falier's bitter complaint that, as he had obtained no redress for Steno's insult, he was powerless to right a mere master mariner, to which Bertuccio replied, "My Lord Duke, if you would make yourself prince and cut all these cuckoldy gentlemen to pieces, I have the courage to make you Sovereign of Venice if you will but lend me your aid."
But though this conversation may be apocryphal, our trustworthy Lorenzo de Monacis proceeds to say that on the following night the doge in fact did secretly send for Bertuccio and opened his mind to him in all its bitterness against the nobility. They proceeded to lay out their designs. Bertuccio, "auctore et promotore duce," agreed to enroll twenty leading citizens, recruited from the merchant, banking, and seafaring  classes, (30) each of whom would answer for forty stout fellows who should be ready to do their bidding — that is to say the forces at the disposal of the conspirators would amount to eight hundred men.(31) The plot matured rapidly, but of the twenty leaders only Bertuccio Ixarello, Filippo Calendario, Stefanello Trevisan, Antonio dalle Binde and Nicoleto Doro were informed that the doge himself was "auctorem et conscium hujus conjurationis."
The plan of the conspirators was this: on the evening of April 15 all the leaders, each with his forty followers, were to walk down towards the Piazza; either on the cry that the Genoese were off the Lido or, as another account has it, on the outbreak of a fictitious brawl among themselves, the doge was to order the bell of S. Marco to be rung; this would bring the nobles flocking to the square, where they were to be cut to pieces as they came up. In the meantime, in order to exasperate the popular feeling against the nobility, the conspirators were to divide themselves into groups and scour the town at night, knocking at the doors of peaceable citizens and shouting insults to their wives and daughters, then whistling to each other and calling each other by the names of noble families.
The secret was well kept; the plot ripened; April 15 was approaching. But on the very day preceding the night of the rising, the doge sent for Nicolò Zucuol, son of the Costantino Zucuol who by the doge's influence had been given the command of a flying squadron. Nicolò Zucuol was a man of the middle class, rich, of great weight with the people  of his own rank, and an intimate friend of the doge. Unfortunately Lorenzo de Monacis, who furnishes this information, breaks off his narrative just at this point, but Matteo Villani comes to our help. He tells us that the doge, whose object evidently was to secure the support of the class represented by Zucuol, laid before his friend the whole plot which was on the very point of being carried into execution; but instead of support he met with opposition from Zucuol, and entreaties to abandon the scheme before it was too late. Villani goes on to say that the doge, in alarm, accepted his friend's advice and empowered him to seek out the leading conspirators and to order them in his name to proceed no further with the design; as warrant for this order the doge gave Zucuol his signet ring. When the populace learned this change of plan they considered themselves betrayed by the doge. If Villani's story be correct it would account for the attitude of the people. But it differs from the story as told by Trevisan, to whom we now return. At the hour of supper on April 15 — that is, shortly after Zucuol had seen the doge — Vendrame, a leather merchant, one of the conspirators, who was not aware that the doge was in the plot, being a particular friend of Messer Nicolò Lion, a patrician, went to Lion's house and told him that there was to be a rising in Venice headed by Bertuccio Ixarello, Stefano Trevisan and many others, whose object was to upset the State of Venice ("chon intenzion de rovezar el stato de Veniexia"). Vendrame declared that he revealed the plot to Lion in order that he might take steps to frustrate so great an evil. Lion, on hearing this, was struck dumb with terror, but presently both set out for the palace and laid the whole story before the doge, who, however, appeared to make light of the affair. Lion was not satisfied, and urged the summoning of the Council, to which the doge reluctantly agreed. The Council, it seems, were aware of a certain unquiet in the city and had ordered  precautions to be taken; but nothing positive was known as yet. While they were still sitting, two members of the Contarini family, Giacomo and his nephew Zuan, arrived at the palace with news that they had discovered a plot among the population of Castello, headed by Filippo Calendario; this information they had from a friend who had been invited to join the rising, but had declined and had denounced the conspiracy to the Contarini. The name of this friend the Contarini refused to give, but under pressure from the Council they went back to their house and presently returned with Marco Negro, a seaman of Castello. Marco, closely examined, deposed that Nicolò Brazzaduro and Marco Muda had invited him to join them in the plot of which Marino Falier, Doge of Venice, was the head ("choncludendo che Miser Marin Falier, doxie de Venexia, era chapo e guida del dito tratato"). We must conclude that the Council already had some suspicion of the fact, for apparently they were, contrary to practice, sitting without the Doge, who was moving about the palace with a large train of people and nobles and other persons of weight who did not know how the matter stood ("chandava per pallazo con gram zente e zentillomeni e altra bona zente che non sapeva el fato chomo stava"). Night was now closing in rapidly; the conspirators were waiting for the sound of the bell, but the doge, in the uncertainty of the situation at the palace, gave no order. The Council, however, acted promptly. Calendario and Zuan da  Corso were arrested, brought before the Council, and immediately tortured. Corso confessed that Marino Falier was in the plot ("era in lo tratato"); he also denounced Calendario, who thereupon made a full confession, with names. Orders were given to occupy the Piazza with armed men.
So rapid had been the action of the Council that even if the people had intended to rise, which is doubtful, they were forestalled. The tocsin was not rung and the city remained absolutely quiet through the  night. On becoming convinced of the doge's guilt, the Ducal Council convened the Council of Ten ("a qual conseglio aspetta simille chose"). The Ten at once appointed a Zonta (Giunta) of twenty assessors, chosen from among the more distinguished nobles, and summoned the Doge to appear before them. By this time it was early morning, and the dawn of Thursday, April 16, was just coming in.
Meantime Bertuccio Ixarello had been arrested and brought to the palace by the people of Santa Croce — a significant fact, enabling us to estimate the slight extent to which the populace of Venice was in favour of the plot. Calendario and Ixarello were at once condemned and hanged, with gags in their mouths, from the red columns on the upper loggia of the old palace looking on to the piazzetta. (32) The other arcades proceeding from the red columns towards the molo were soon filled with other corpses as execution succeeded execution — eleven in all.
On Friday, April 17, five of the Ducal Councillors (Giovanni Sanudo being ill), nine of the Council of Ten (Ser Nicolò Falier withdrawing as a relation to the doge), twenty of the Zonta, and two Avvogadori di Comun (another Nicolò Falier withdrawing as a kinsman of the prisoner), met to sentence the doge. The Court was therefore composed of thirty-six persons. A commission of four — Giovanni Mocenigo (ducal councillor), Giovanni Marcello (chief of the Ten), Luca da Lezze (Inquisitor of the Ten), and Orio Pasqualigo (Avvogador) — had already examined the doge, whether with torture or not is uncertain, though a chronicle of the fifteenth century relates that when Falier was conducted to "the place of torture" a paper fell from his person which revealed the whole plot ("li cazete zerta scrittura per la qual lettera intexe tutto"). (33) Trevisan, however, who was of the Ten, but not of  the examining Commission, is silent on this point. We have no first-hand account of what took place at the examination, but Matteo Villani, who seems to have been in possession of trustworthy information — though his account varies from that of Trevisan — makes use of the significant phrase, "The doge could not deny the charge" ("Il Doge nol seppe negare"). In any case the examining judges brought up their report, which was discussed by the full court of thirty-six. The formal question was then put: "After what has been said and read shall we proceed against Marino Falier, doge, for treason to the State and Commune of Venice?" The answer was in the affirmative. Then, about the hour of Vespers, sentence was moved in the following terms — that Marino Falier should be beheaded on the landing-place of the stone staircase where he had taken his coronation oath and received the ducal bonnet. Confiscation of the doge's property was implied in this sentence, but ob ducatus reverentiam he was permitted to devise the large sum of two thousand lire de' grossi, equivalent to twenty thousand ducats, and by his will, drawn up for him by the notary, Piero de Compostelli, (34) in the afternoon of April 17, Falier bequeathed the whole of that sum to his wife and named her sole executrix, a fact in itself sufficient to dissipate the legend of the Dogaressa's light living. The sentence was communicated to the doge in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, and the ducal bonnet was removed; as the sun was setting he was led down the stairs amidst a hostile throng, and at the top of the marble stairs leading into the courtyard his head fell to the executioner's sword, Sanudo (35) tells us that he remembers to have seen a white damask altar-cloth, used on Good Fridays, all stained with blood, said to have been placed under the Doge when his head was cut off, ("cussi ozi intessi"). The doors of the palace had been closed and when the execution was  over either the executioner or, according to another version, a chief of the Ten, went to the loggia overlooking the Piazza, and showing the bloody sword to the crowd cried: "Look, all of you; great justice has been done on the traitor." The Doge's body, with his head at his feet, was wrapped in a matting and lay for some time in the chamber of the Piovego for all to see. Then the corpse was placed in a common barchetta from the traghetto, with four torches, one priest and an acolyte, and conveyed to the family vault at San Giovanni e Paolo. (36)
The Falier tomb was a large oblong sarcophagus of Istrian stone; it had an inscription and the Falier coat of arms on it, and stood in an angle of the vestibule of the chapel dedicated to the Madonna della Pace. It was opened in 1812 and was found to be full of skeletons. These were removed one by one, and when nearly all had been taken out the searchers came on one which had its skull between its feet. It was instantly recognised as the skeleton of the luckless doge. (37) What became of these interesting remains we do not know. The great sarcophagus was, for a long time, used as a cistern in the dispensary of the Town Hospital; it is now in the outer loggia of the Museo Civico, though both inscription and arms have been obliterated.
It was only after eleven years had elapsed, from the date of the conspiracy and execution of the Doge, that the Council of Ten, on December 10, 1366, decreed (38)  the removal of Falier's portrait from the series which formed the frieze to the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, and that the vacant space should be painted blue with the following inscription in white: "Hic fuit locus Ser Marin Faletro decapitati pro crimine proditionis." When, after the fire of 1577, the portraits of the Doges were renewed, in Falier's space a black curtain was painted bearing these words in white: "Hic est locus Marin Faletri decapitati pro criminibus."
After the execution of the Doge, other trials, executions, confiscations, and sentences of banishment followed in rapid succession, though it does not appear that the Ten were excessively harsh, for a large number of minor accomplices were pardoned. (39) Vigorous measures secured the peace of the city, which does not seem to have been seriously menaced. Trustworthy men were brought up from Chioggia, and the nobles were required to attend armed day and night for the protection of the Piazza and the Palace. But these precautions lasted barely two months, and all extraordinary measures were revoked by an order of the Ten on June 10 (40): "Cum per gratiam Dei terra nostra reducta sit in statu quietis et pacis, vadit pars quod custodie ordinate de novo cessent, nec amplius fiant." The 10th of April, the feast of Sant' Isidoro, was appointed as a day of solemn thanksgiving, and a procession round the Piazza di San Marco, attended with the same ceremony as was observed on the feast of St. Vitus, which  commemorated the failure of the Tiepolo conspiracy in 1310.
Such were the facts of Marino Falier's conspiracy, according to the earliest and most trustworthy authorities; but the causes of the conspiracy, and the real intention of the Doge, have always been and still remain a matter of conjecture. It is certain that Falier's action was a surprise and a puzzle to his friends, his contemporaries, and those nearest to his time. Petrarch, writing from Milan only seven days after Falier's execution, admits that the doge's conduct convinced him that he had been mistaken as to Falier's character, that the Doge proved to have been possessed of more courage than prudence, and had falsely enjoyed, for many years, a reputation for the latter. Lorenzo de Monacis is even more outspoken in his amazement. "Stupor est," he says, "quod vir plenus dierum, reputatus tantae gravitatis, ita crudelis fuerit quod excogitaverit tantum scelus." It is clear that both Petrarch and de Monacis, acute intelligences, trained politicians, felt a difficulty in explaining the event, and in defining the motive and aims of the doge.
The official statements which immediately followed the execution positively assert the doge's "treason," but do not state the nature of that treason. On April 17 — that is the day of the doge's death — the Government wrote to Lorenzo Celsi, Podestà of Treviso, that certain persons, "diabolico spiritu instigatos," had planned the "subvertionem status civitatis nostre," but add that "it has pleased God to give into our hands 'omnes principales et auctores proditionis predicte,' and we have already beheaded Marino Faletro, lately Doge of Venice, 'qui fuit auctor et caput proditionis predicte.' " (41) On April 19, two days after the doge's execution, the Great Council, when deliberating on the election of a new doge, declare that "vacante ducatu per obi turn domini  Marini Faledro, olim ducis Venetiarum, decapitati propter proditionem per eum ordinatam in consumptionem et destructìonem civitatis Venetiarum et populi ejusdem." Here the doge is accused of treason not only against the state of Venice but against the people of Venice, though the nature of the plot is not revealed. Again, on January 13, 1355-56, the Council of Ten speak of the "proditio attentata per Ser Marinum Faledro." The contemporary chronicle of Trevisan is not more explicit as to the doge's aims, "voiando," he says, "tuti i prediti redur Veniexia a ruina e pessimo stato." The anonymous chronicler of 1396 (42) is the first to define the doge's object: "Questo doxe insperado da spiriti diabolici con alcuni homeni suo seguaci provolari volse tradir Venexia a farse signor dessa"; and farther on, "E poi dovea levar el dito doxe signor a bacheta e mantegnir el rizimento de Veniexia a puovollo e robar tute le chaxe dei zentilomeni et alzider tuti quelli li fosse contrarli e vergognare tute le sue done." Here we get the statement that the doge, with the help of some of the populace, intended to make himself lord of Venice, the bribe held out to his followers being the sacking of the nobles' houses, the ravishing of their women-folk, and the usual promise put forward by all Italians aspiring to a despotism, that the government should be carried on on lines favourable to the people "mantegnir el rizimento de Veniexia a puovollo"). Lorenzo de Monacis supports this view, though in more measured terms: "Dux immemor ingentium patriae beneficiorum, et magnitudine honorum elatus... truci ambitione vexatus, excogitavit auxilio aliquorum civium popularium subvertere statum civitatis et extincta nobilitate dignitatem antiqui et perpetui Ducatus nova et violenta permutare tyrannide." Here the doge's personal ambition is adduced as the main factor in the plot, and later on, when relating the insult to the  doge, Lorenzo declares that "satis patet quod Dux non habuit causam sed quaesivit occasionem male agendi," that Steno's insult in fact was not the cause but the pretext for the plot which was already ripening in the doge's ambitious mind. Finally, Antonio Morosini says that the doge "manda per alguny povolany homeny de mar e de altra chativa chondicion persone, atratando voler la citade de Veniexia in sodominio per muodo de tirania." That is a distinct statement that Falier was aiming at a tyranny. The official statements and the opinion of the nearest authorities, therefore, all agree in explaining the plot as an attempt on the part of Falier to make himself sovereign in Venice by the help of the people and the seafaring and merchant classes. We must, however, bear in mind that, in spite of this consensus of opinion, we are listening to one party only — the aristocratic and official side of the case — the statement of those who condemned the doge or were in the service of the government that executed him; we have never heard the doge's side of the case, the minutes of his examination before the Commission of the Ten being unfortunately lost. It is true, nevertheless, that his friend Petrarch has nothing to urge in Falier's defence. "Nemo ilium excusat; populum absolvo"; but then failure is seldom excused.
Various conjectural explanations of the exact aim of the plot have been advanced; each of them, however, presents some difficulties. It has been suggested that the key to the conspiracy was a coalition between the Doge, smarting under Steno's insult, and the people, exasperated by the insolence of the governing caste, and that the object of the plot was to crush the nobility and to return to the earlier constitution of Venice, in which the Doge and people were in immediate contact. But the action of the populace during the crisis of the plot seems to negative such a conclusion. The people did not rise, the city remained remarkably quiet, the movement was confined to the  quarter of Castello and to the arsenal hands, (43) on whom the doge chiefly relied; some of the conspirators were even arrested and brought to the palace by the people of Santa Croce.
Again the conspiracy has been represented as following the lines of the Tiepolo rising as a revolt against the operation of the Serrata del Maggior Consiglio, which disfranchised so many families. But there is no evidence in the documents to support this view, and we find no noble names among those of the conspirators.
There remains the third and most plausible explanation — that the doge intended, with the help of the lower populace, to make himself despot or lord of Venice. This view has the nearly unanimous support of all who lived about the time of the conspiracy. The idea was in the air of Italy. The doge had seen the Visconti, the Scalas, the Carraresi raising themselves to absolute power in their native cities. The idea was also in the air of Venice. A proposal had been made to other nobles, Piero Badoer and Piero Giustinian, for example, that they should follow the spirit of the times, and by a bold stroke create a dynasty in place of the oligarchy. The danger from the dynastic idea  was ever present to the minds of the governing caste, and led them to curtail the ducal power with each successive coronation oath. But even this explanation is not free of difficulties. In the whole course of Falier's career there is not the smallest indication of such an idea having entered his head up to the date of his election as Doge. He did not seek election; he did not even know that the ducal throne was vacant, and yet election to the dogeship must have been essential to the success of such a scheme had he ever entertained the idea. On the other hand, the governing caste can have had no suspicion of Falier when they elected him doge; they would never have filled the chief place in the State by a man suspected of intending to overthrow their domination. Furthermore, Falier was childless and with few relations — a fact which militates against the supposition that he contemplated founding a dynasty — though it is true he was deeply attached to his nephew Fantino and may have dreamt of him as a successor on the throne. In any case we may feel pretty sure that Falier, when he came to the throne, had no intention of upsetting the Venetian constitution. How are we to explain the rapid growth of so rash a design in the brain of an old man, famed for prudence, with a past illustrious for brilliant and faithful service to the State? Steno's insult is altogether too trivial an episode to account satisfactorily for so violent a change of attitude. At the end of the matter we are forced to Petrarch's conclusion. "I pity," he says, "and at the same time I am wrath with that unhappy man who, raised to the highest honour, sought heaven knows what at the very close of his days. His misfortune is all the greater in that the judgement passed upon him would show him to have been not merely luckless but demented and insane."
"Causas vero ... si comperte loqui velim, nequeo, tam ambiguae et variæ referuntur."
Whatever the causes may have been, the result of Falier's conspiracy is clear. As the rising of Tiepolo created the Council of Ten, that powerful weapon of the governing caste, so the execution of the doge demonstrated and confirmed the supremacy of the Ten. The rapidity and efficiency of its action (44) in the face of a grave menace to the new aristocracy, the party whose creature it was, justified its existence. If there had ever been any doubt in men's minds as to whether this potent engine were to remain a permanent part of the Constitution, the conspiracy of Marino Falier dissipated such doubts for ever, and finally established the Council of Ten as the very core of the Venetian oligarchy.
This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran and Elsa Gregori