The stolen treasure of Saint Mark
What the chronicles of the late 1400’s report is perhaps one of the most sensational attempts at theft in the history of Venice.
Before the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte in Venice, the Treasures of Saint Mark held priceless valuables from all over the known world, and in 1494 a man thought that he could steal them.
This is the story of Stamati Crassiotti who devised a plan to steal the Treasure of Saint Mark.
Of the many petty thefts that occurred daily in Venice, Stamati probably thought that the risk he ran for his plan to work was pretty small compared to the prospect of a life lived in unbridled luxury that so many riches would have granted him.
Stamatti’s plan was simple: to enter the treasure room through the Baptistery of the Basilica of Saint Mark which, as he was in a fairly privileged position, living close by, seemed it would make the execution child’s play.
So, after hiding behind an altar in the Basilica, he patiently waited for the sextons to close the doors so that he was able to work, undisturbed, during the night.
Of course, moving the heavy slab of marble and breaking through the wall that separated the Baptistery from the room of the Treasury was no small effort, but Stamati was too close to the Treasury of Saint Mark to abandon the plan that would have made him rich for the rest of his life.
In fact, he succeeded!
However, once inside the Treasury room, he realised that it was not possible to take all of it, so after grabbing several precious stones, he decided to seal the passage and to return the following night.
“So far, so good!” the thief must have thought, “Just a little more work and the Treasure of Saint Mark will be mine”.
In fact the following night, after having taken some other precious stones, Stamati also stole ten gold crowns and twelve gold breastplates encrusted with jewels, that the Doge Enrico Dandolo had brought to Venice from Constantinople.
Although there was much more that could have been taken from Saint Mark, the spoils of the two night’s work were sufficient enough to allow him and his descendants a new life, and so he closed the passage and left the Basilica undisturbed.
Certainly the security systems of the fifteenth century could not compare to those of modern day, but only a fool would think of stealing the Treasure of Saint Mark without organising a quick getaway from Venice.
Did Stamati manage to escape from Venice?
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Once he realised that he would soon be in trouble, Stamati knew that he had to escape. Panicking, he decided to ask for help from his friend Grioni, to whom he confided everything.
Grioni answered that one of his captain friends was about to sail from Venice, and he could hide the treasure, but soon after he told the Venetian guards everything.
Stamati’s escape lasted less than two hours, and he was hanged on March 21st 1449 while Grioni was rewarded for his service to the Most Serene Republic.