Porta Dojona
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Porta Dojona and its talking walls

Porta Dojona (Dojona Gate) is one of the most distinctive symbols of the city of Belluno. It has seen nearly one thousand years of Bellunese history, endured several restorations, been expanded and covered. But what you might not know is this gate hides a small secret of daily life. Read on to learn more. 

Porta Dojona is one of the five gates (four official and one “for emergencies”) that allows you to enter inside the city walls of Belluno, and is one of three that is still intact today.

We are talking about a real monument, one that is a testament to the history of Belluno since 1289: the year in which its internal archway was erected, originally called “di Foro” (public square) or “Mercato” (market), designed by Vecello da Cusighe and in honor of the count-bishop Adalgerlo of the 8th level.

The second part of the gate, as in the actual “facade” that overlooks Vittorio Emanuele Square, dates back to the Renaissance period, specifically 1553: it is the work of Niccolò Tagliapietra, built on request for chancellor Francesco Diedo (note the inscription above the arch FRANC. DIEDO. PRAET. PRAEF.Q. OPT). You can even see various recognizable Renaissance-style elements, such as the columns positioned on high pedestals, the triglyphs carved in the architrave and the two caryatids aside the Lion of San Marco.

One of the principal features of this evocative place of the city is the world that one enters by passing under the gate: you must however know that it has not always been this way. In reality, the passageway was first covered in 1622, thus giving Porta Dojona its characteristic feeling of a “small-scale arcade.”

Moreover, not even the name is the same as it was at the beginning: the gate was named “Dojona” in 1609 in honor of Giorgio Doglioni, aid to prince-bishop of Bressanone.

Have you ever heard someone refer to this gate as “Porta de la Cadene“? If that happened and you wanted to ask why, we’ll tell you: it takes this name from the drawbridge that was here until c. 1730 (when the moat was buried) from Via Mezzaterra.

But now we arrive at that which we had promised, the virtually hidden quirk of this gate: we have explained that this gate is a symbol of the city unto itself, in particular its walls, the inscriptions written mostly in Latin that recall the construction of the gate, its successive restoration projects and even the happenings of the city of Belluno. But there are also inscriptions less renowned and uncommon, which recount episodes of daily life.

Let us explain further. In the points shown using the arrows in the following image, if you look closely (we mean in person, if not, what beauty is there?), you can see written the names of people and their dates. Know who these people are? These are the autographs inscribed by the guards who protected this gate in the middle of the 1800s. And do you know how they left their permanent mark on the Porta Dojona? They did it with their bayonets.

Scritte porta

Photograph by Leonard Leo Graf.

Thanks to the group  Belluno e Provincia: cultura arte e storia that shared some of the information present in this article and to the research of Gigetto De Bortoli, Andrea Moro, Flavio Vizzutti, Belluno: storia, architettura, arte Belluno, 1984.

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The Baldenich Joke

When a trick becomes the most effective weapon.

Maybe not everyone knows that even the Belluno prison can boast a famous story of escape: that which is known to history as the Baldenich Joke when twelve partisans managed to free seventy political prisoners.

It is June 16, 1944 and all is ready for the mission, Mariano Mandolesi, known by comrades as Carlo, leads his men to the gates of the Baldenich prison, where the Germans held their prisoners and that morning inside there are sixteen policemen and ten prison guards.

Their intent is to free Milo, who would be transferred to Trento by them in a few days to be shot and all the others with him, everyday victims of torture and ill-treatment. The whole operation was to take place without a fight, without a shot, without shedding further blood.

And this happened: the Baldenich Joke begins when Carlo comes with eight companions in German uniforms saying they have four prisoners to deliver. In broken German Carlo and others are turning to the police but they ask them for their incarceration documents.

The partisans have none and they try to take time, no guard realizes who is hiding really under the German jackets and hats, and they ask: “No one who speaks Italian?” Then came the prison guard who had just finished his monitoring tour and immediately becomes blocked by Biondino, who takes the pile with the keys to the cells.

Once the prisoners were freed, and the prison guards and police jailed the handful of fugitives go on foot towards the mountains. The prison guards are able to sound the alarm only twenty minutes later when Charles and the others are already at the slopes of Mount Serva, tired but excited to be able to realize the Baldenich Joke, without even firing a shot.