La Nostra Signora Dei Piccioni Del Piazza San Marco

Amazing how quickly things slip from your memory… at least until one imports the 2,840 3,183 photos taken over the last two weeks in Europe providing refreshment to recall capabilities. Case in point, allow me to introduce you to Our Lady Of The Pigeons Of Saint Mark’s Square who Susan and I had the marvelous good fortune to stumble upon during an early morning walkabout in Venice May 7 before joining the cruise, and who I had completely forgotten about until my images of her (a trio of them below) flashed on the computer screen as they downloaded.

What a wonderful treat it was to find her.

It was after journeying out from our hotel through the labyrinth of side streets and alleys and passages and back that we came alongside St. Mark’s Basilica where a large service door stood wide open. Being me, I of course barely hesitated in walking across to see if entry or at least a peak inside might be an option but as I drew to the threshold a stern looking nun suddenly emerged from the shadows. Though she indicated nothing in regards to recognizing and/or thwarting my intentions she caught me by surprise and did head directly for me and thus forced an about-face and full retreat — one I attempted to make as casual as possible, but threatened to fail at because the nun basically continued to head straight for me as I charted a slow course through a large congregation of pigeons oddly gathered on the ground with no one else around. As I felt the nun bearing down upon me I had to squelch the urge to bolt and it was only afterward that I realized the nun was drafting me because I was basically cutting a path through the birds.

Once through them I cut a sharp left toward Susan and thankfully the nun continued on without so much as a glance in my direction with the pigeons closing ranks behind her.

I stared at the flock wondering why were they there specifically. At such an early hour the vast piazza proper was practically deserted of both the vendors who sell the bags of birdfeed and the tourists who purchase them, but clearly the birds were waiting for something or someone. And in not a minute more the answer appeared in the church’s side door in the form of a tiny, stoop-shouldered elderly woman with short gray hair and a brown quilted jacket. The moment she appeared the birds grew excited and moved en masse to her as she hobbled into the open air saying something in Italian to a man who stood in the doorway and watched her go before disappearing back into the Basilica’s murk.

Pulling a plastic baggie from her large purse incited the birds into an even greater frenzy that crowded close around her and on her and then over the course of the next couple minutes until her food supply had been exhausted and she shuffled off Susan and I were delighted to watch what must be a daily ritual that I can only imagine this aged lady has been doing for years — and bless her I hope she can continue doing for many years to come (click images for larger sizes):




UPDATED (05.21): I’ve gone ahead and posted all 37 images I snapped of her and her flock in a photoset here on Flickr.