On the south wall of S. Mark’s, looking over the Molo and the lagoon, is the famous Madonna before whom two lights burn all night. Not all day too, as I have seen it stated. Above her are two pretty cherubs against a light-blue background, holding the head of Christ: one of the gayest pieces of colour in Venice. Justice is again pinnacled here, and on her right, on another pinnacle, is a charming angel, upon whom a lion fondlingly climbs. Between and on each side are holy men within canopies, and beneath is much delicate work in sculpture. Below are porphyry insets and veined marbles, and on the parapet two griffins, one apparently destroying a child and one a lamb. The porphyry stone on the ground at the corner on our left is the Pietra del Bando, from which the laws of the Republic were read to the people. Thomas Coryat, the traveller, who walked from Somerset to Venice in 1608 and wrote the result of his journey in a quaint volume called Coryat’s Crudities, adds another to the functions of the Pietra del Bando. “On this stone,” he says, “are laide for the space of three dayes and three nights the heads of all such as being enemies or traitors to the State, or some notorious offenders, have been apprehended out of the citie, and beheaded by those that have been bountifully hired by the Senate for the same purpose.” The four affectionate figures, in porphyry, at the corner of the Doges’ Palace doorway, came also from the East. Nothing definite is known of them, but many stories are told. The two richly carved isolated columns were brought from Acre in 1256.
Of these columns old Coryat has a story which I have found in no other writer. It may be true, and on the other hand it may have been the invention of some mischievous Venetian wag wishing to get a laugh out of the inquisitive Somerset pedestrian, whose leg was, I take it, invitingly pullable. “Near to this stone,” he says, referring to the Pietra del Bando, “is another memorable thing to be observed. A marvailous faire paire of gallowes made of alabaster, the pillars being wrought with many curious borders, and workes, which served for no other purpose but to hang the Duke whensoever he shall happen to commit any treason against the State. And for that cause it is erected before the very gate of his Palace to the end to put him in minde to be