Friday, December 10, 2010

Feline Fridays goes European, meet Copernico of Sant' Agostin- Guest post By Michelle Lovric

Mr December 10
Copernico of Sant’Agostin

Copernico, a big white Persian cat, is the boss of the apparently undistinguished square of Sant’Agostin.

Once this campo boasted a beautiful church and a palace belonging to the bluest of Venetian blood. Both are gone. And you must go round the corner and down a tiny lane to find the other main point of interest – a plaque marking the birthplace of Daniele Manin, hero of the 1848 revolt against the Austrians.

These days Sant’Agostin, land bound, dusty and enclosed by modern (for Venice) blocks of flats, is a square to hurry past on the way to the Frari or the picturesque San Giacomo dell’Orio – rather than a place to dally with a spritz.

In fact, the very plainness of Sant’Agostin is the result of a violent and colourful history. If you’ve read my books The Undrowned Child and The Mourning Emporium, then you’ll remember that it once was home to the palace of Bajamonte Tiepolo, the arrogant nobleman who conspired to murder the Doge and take over the city in 1310. When his plot failed, Bajamonte himself was sent into perpetual exile, his palazzo was razed to the ground, and the state erected a column of infamy to mark the spot where the traitor had lived. That column was soon subject to an assassination attempt of its own – and the man who broke it in three was deprived of a hand and both of his eyes. Later, the column ended up in a garden by a lake, and now – ridiculously – languishes in a dark and dusty repository of the Fondazione di Musei Civici … but that’s another story.

Napoleon closed the square’s beautiful church, and by 1873 it had fallen into such a bad state that it had to be demolished.

Copernico the cat lives with his master Alberto, who used to have a boatyard with 30 rowing craft on the edge of the square. Now even that has disappeared, but Copernico is still there to protect the square from interlopers who might think of making further changes to his beloved home. Nor does he tolerate any other cats in his territory.

Copernico was found abandoned as a tiny kitten on an island in the lagoon. That was thirteen years ago. Alberto brought him home, fed him up and watched him grow into a magnificent beast and a great hunter. Copernico is very artistic too: he likes to catch pairs of rats and leave them aligned perfectly in parallel for his master to find.

On sunny days Copernico can be seen reclining on his own special piece of carpet on flagstones outside his home. He probably won’t condescend to get up to meet you, but he’ll give you a loud miaow if you approach. Make sure you do so humbly: if Bajamonte Tiepolo were to be reincarnated in feline form, I suspect he might look something like Copernico.

Want to immerse yourself more in Venetian history and excitement?  Pick up one of Michelle's two awesome children's books The Undrowned Child and The Mourning Emporium. Click below to check out my reviews (these are two of my favorite books that I've read this year!):
The Undrowned Child Review
The Mourning Emporium Review
Also check out last weeks Feline Friday goes European post (if you missed it) on Venetian Cat Sanctuaries, and my interview with Michelle Lovric herself!

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