Saturday, December 10, 2011

Secret note box

photo, Diane Carnevale

Inside the Doge's Palace in Venice there's this curious and inconspicuous note plaque on a wall called a bocca di leone, or "lion's mouth" (not that it looks anything like a lion). It's a secret note box, and it's not as charming as it sounds. Back in the 1500s, Venice was a city of whispers, rumors and self-policing; any Venetian citizen could accuse someone of scandal or wrongdoing by simply dropping a piece of paper with your name written on it. All accusations had to be signed and witnessed, and if of course if they proved to be merely slanderous the would-be denouncer was in serious legal trouble of his or her own. Can you imagine that system today? Um, Sally from down the street didn't pick up her dog's poop this morning—off to the dungeon!

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