The Wars of the Fists

The Wars of the Fists

Since 1300 on some bridges in Venice used to took place the notorious Wars of the Fists .

Venice is the city of bridges. Can be counted more than 400 bridges connecting the 118 little isles composing one of the most unique cities in the world. Some of those bridges are really famous, such as Rialto Bridge or the Bridge of Whispers (Ponte dei Sospiri), some bridges have no headboards (only two in the whole city: one in Torcello and one in the city centre near Rio of San Felice, just a few steps from the School of Misericordia) and there are also Bridges of Fists (Ponti dei Pugni) and Bridges of War (Ponti della Guerra). But what were the latter used for? They were once used for the famous Wars of Fists. Of this particular kind two can be found in Venice, the one of the Fists and one near Santa Fosca, were can still be seen, even if the bridges have been rebuilt, some strange footprints made of Istrian stone. What were the Fists Fights? In Venice used to live two rival factions: Castellani and Nicolotti. The first ones lived in the east zone of the city (the industrial one, whit the Arsenal), the others lived in the west zone of Venice near the Church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli (they were mainly fishermen). The two factions, bitter enemies, faced each other since 1300, between September and Christmas, in really fierce battles. The battles could be individual boxing matches, multiple matches or real battles for the conquest of the bridge. The Fists Wars (the stone footprints served to arrange the fighters during the single matches) took place on various bridges, such as the nowadays named dei Carmini, the one of Santa Fosca and the one of the War. As the bridges had no headboards, was declared winner the one that threw more enemies in the water. The rivalry between the factions was evident even in the smallest details: for example the Castellani used to wear red scarves and caps, the Nicolotti black ones; the Castellani's women wore a flower on one side of the breast, the Nicolotti's one on the other side. The Fists Wars became, with the passing of time, more and more cruel and for that reason were banished in 1705. In Venice these wars where substituted, just during Carnival time, by the Forces of Hercules (Forze d'Ercole).

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