Campo dei Mori

Campo dei Mori (32)

One of the most peculiar campi you can see in Venice is in the peaceful sestiere of Cannaregio, in the north of the city. It is Campo dei Mori, and its name forms part of its charm, since its origin is by no means clear.

On the one hand, some people believe that the name of mori, which is the plural of the word moro or Moor, was due to the square nearby the Fondaco dei Turchi and some houses that in past times accommodated Arab traders.

However, a more plausible explanation could be due to the arrival in the city, around 1112, of three brothers from the island of Morea, in the Peloponnese. The brothers, whose names were Rioba, Sandi and Afani, were merchants and dedicated to the spice trade. 

On arriving in Venice they were given the name of Mastelli, apparently because the possessed many mastelli, small casks, full of gold sequins, ancient gold coins. Whether it is legend or not, what is clear is that they must have owned quite a lot of money, since they had the Palazzo Mastelli built, which looks out over the River Madonna dell’Orto.

On the eastern part of the campo you can see some stone figures from the 13th century that represent the brothers. The most famous is situated on one of the corners of the square and has a curious rusty iron nose that was added in the 19th century. The Venetians created a fictitious character from the statue, Signor Antonio Rioba, who acted as their spokesman when they wanted to make some sort of criticism against the Republic.

Another of the figures, in contrast, gives us a clearer idea of these oriental merchants, since he is wearing a turban. In the Palazzo Mastelli, in contrast, a bas-relief work represents a camel loaded with goods.

Campo dei Mori is also known for being the square that features the house of Jacopo Robusti, Tintoretto. However, you will not be able to visit it since it is privately owned. 

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