Apart from a single exception, only the doges of Venice have ever been accorded the privilege of being buried in the Basilica San Marco. And none was buried in the actual body of the church, only in the narthex (atrium), or in the baptistery.
This practise came to an end centuries ago; the last doge to be so interred (in the baptistery) was Andrea Dandolo, who died in 1354. However, almost three centuries later a slight bending of the rules seems to have been made for Doge Francesco Erizzo (r. 1631-46).
Embedded into the floor of the sanctuary, a few paces from the famous Pala d' Oro, there is a small heart-shaped slab of marble, which marks the spot where Erizzo's vital organ is buried. The heart is inlaid with two smaller images; one is easily recognisable as the corno dogale, the special hat that the doges wore, while the black shape is supposed to represent a hedgehog (riccio), symbol of the Erizzo family.
The rest of Erizzo's body is buried in the church of San Martino, which lies opposite what was once his family palazzo.
Blogging about Venice:
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &
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