The Whale Rib
Arco della Costa (the whale rib arch), is a
walkway connecting the Domus Nova (house of judges) and the
Palazzo della Ragione (tribunal), during Venetian domination of
Verona it allowed the magistrates, appointed by the central
government of the Republic of Venice, to go from their residence,
the Domus Nova, to the city court, the Palazzo della Ragione,
without having to pass through the street where they could have
been approached by corrupters or people looking for revenge.
Arco della Costa owes its name to a rib of whale (costa or costola in Italian) or, according to some, of ichthyosaurus, an aquatic dinosaur, that has been hanging under it for centuries. It is not known with certainty why it was hang there and, although there are various theories, it remains a mystery. The rib of Piazza delle Erbe is in its position at least since the eighteenth century. There is in fact a painted view of Piazza Erbe from that age in which the rib under its arch already appears, whereas in older similar painting cannot be seen. This doesn't necessarily mean that it could no have been placed there long before.
According to some, the rib is a sort of relic brought back
from the holy land by the crusaders or pilgrims
of Verona and hang under an arch of Piazza delle Erbe as an ex-voto.
This hypothesis is supported by the presence of a similar bone
inside the complex of the Cathedral of Verona.
Others believe it could be a fossil, perhaps found on the mountains around Verona and, believed to be the bone of some mysterious monster, placed in the center of the city for superstition as a sort of protection against evil spirits.
The most probable hypothesis however is that it was a primitive advertisement for an apothecary that was right under the arch. In the days of market Piazza Erbe had to be very crowded and chaotic. It is not difficult to imagine that the owner of a side shop wanted to draw the attention of potential customers with something unusual, curious and clearly visible being placed at the top. Apparently, the legal owner of the rib is still the pharmacy that is located under the arch and that has taken the place of the old remedy shop.
The arch of the rib is just one of the many mysteries of Verona, places, monuments, details of the city where history and legend mix. With the tourist guides of Verona you can get to know them all by following one of our exciting guided tours. The guide who will accompany you on your visit to Verona will surely show you the arch of the rib once you arrive in the central Piazza delle Erbe.
Do not hesitate to contact us for more information or to plan and book your guided tour of Verona.