The kidnapping of brides in Venice

The history of Venice would be even more charming if it were to include all the legends handed down over the centuries that don’t contain enough evidence to be considered real events.

This is the story of the kidnapping of Venetian brides by the pirates of Trieste in 944.

It is said that, following an ancient tradition, on the same day every year the Venetians gathered together all of the girls looking for a husband, under the watchful eye of the authorities, so that every young Venetian man could choose his future bride.

The ceremony took place in the church of San Pietro in Castello and was presided over by the Bishop.

As the most beautiful were obviously the most preferred, the spouses were obliged to pay a sum of money for the girls who had not been chosen. With that money the girls would have a dowry that would help them to find a husband.

On 31st January in the year 944, a band of pirates from Trieste led by a certain Gajolo came to Venice, burst in to the church of San Pietro, kidnapped the girls, seized all of the riches that had been offered by the future spouses and left the island towards a secret lair among the bays of the Venetian coast.

The Venetians, shaken up by the incident, quickly organised an expedition to save the girls.

Armed ships, under the guidance of the Doge Candidiano set out in pursuit of the pirates, reaching their hiding place a few hours later.

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On February 2nd, after a violent battle, the pirate Gajolo surrendered to the Venetians who, despite their entreaties, killed all the members of the gang, bringing the girls and all the stolen wealth back to Venice.

Historians are uncertain about what really happened. Even though the pirate Gajolo, who was attributed with many kidnappings and looting, seemed to have really existed.