Venice in Peril


Conservation of two Mariegole (14th Century)

from Scuola Grande della Misericordia and Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista

Detail of St John writing his gospel in the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista Mariegola


In an exciting turn of events, these important medieval manuscripts, stolen from the Venice State Archives in the 1940s, were recently identified in the Boston Public Library (BPL) and returned to Venice over seventy years after their theft. While working as a researcher in the Boston institution, manuscript specialist Dr Lisa Fagin-Davis rediscovered the mariegola (statutes) of the Scuola Grande della Misericoria (1392), a sumptuous parchment manuscript bound in book form, with gothic script and richly decorated with illuminations. Following its theft, the mariegola had been subjected to dismemberment, removal of its chapter and page numbers, and disordered rebinding, presumably to conceal its identity. Many years later, it was later acquired in good faith by the BPL.

During her research into the Misericordia manuscript, Dr Fagin-Davis also found a long-missing initial page from another fourteenth-century mariegola, that of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, with illuminations depicting St John and members of the confraternity.

Following these findings, Dr Fagin-Davis, the BPL, Venice State Archive and Italian and American police cooperated for the restitution of the manuscripts. To read the extraordinary story of the identification and repatriation of the Mariegole, follow the link at the bottom of the page.

Pages from the Mariegola della Misericordia


Central to religious, ceremonial, and civic life, the Venetian scuole (lay confraternities) provided spiritual and economic support to their memberships. While there were over two hundred scuole in Venice, a few were designated special “Scuole Grandi” status by the Venetian State. These were generally the most ancient, wealthy, and prestigious of the scuole, whose origins lay in the flagellant movement. Like all Venetian confraternities, the Scuole Grandi were defined by their statutes or “mariegola”, which outlined the origins of the organisation, described the governing principles, named their saintly protectors, and listed membership rules. As mariegole were cherished objects, they were usually written with beautiful calligraphy and decorated with illuminations, and so they are of great art-historical interest. Moreover, their texts provide important insights into the social history of Venice.

The mariegole concerned in the present project are among the earliest and most important examples of the type.

Brothers of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista


Specialist book and paper conservator Miriam Rampazzo will undertake the restoration of both mariegole. Interventions will include, as necessary: removal of modern restorations and bindings; repairing with Japanese paper any tears and damages; reordering, reintegration, and rebinding; creation of conservation-grade storage boxes.


Mariegola della Misericordia
Scuola Grande della Misercordia
Illuminated manuscript

Mariegola n.8
Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista
14th Century
Illuminated manuscript

Detail from the Mariegola della Misericordia


Venice in Peril has committed to raise €12,000
to fund the conservation of the Mariegola della Misericordia and Mariegola n.8


Dr Lisa Fagin Davis,
Home Again: The Repatriation of a Stolen Venetian Manuscript
The Associates of Boston Public Library, 2023.