Death and the Dogaressa

Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Although not in possession of unrestricted political power, doges could conceivably have lengthy terms of office as the post came with life tenure. Election to the office often capped a long career in the service of the state, and thus doges were often elderly men with the wisdom of years. Yet in the period under consideration here, they had reigns of varied lengths—from four months for Doge Michele Morosini to thirty-four years for Doge Francesco Foscari. Election to the office and death while holding it provided convenient bookends for the doge’s career: even as his election ritually “created” the doge, funeral rituals separated the man from his office. Although the dogaressa had an analogous formation ritual after her spouse’s election, this formal procedure very rarely marked the conclusion of her public career. In this period, elite Venetian men typically married younger women, and so not surprisingly, at least seventy-five percent of dogaresse outlived their spouses, often by sizeable periods of time.1 Because she was not elected and not the occupant of an office as rich in charisma as the doge’s, the widowed dogaressa participated in no formal departure from office, nor did she play a sizable role in the rituals that separated her deceased spouse from his office.


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  1. 14.
    See Benjamin Kohl, ed., Records of the Venetian Senate on Disk, 1335–1400 (New York: Italica Press, 2001), Kohl number 668. Notarial documents reveal her investments and business with the agent in Croatia, Francesco de Lompre, in addition to social and economic ties to the city of Padua, including interactions with the powerful Scrovegni and Papafava families. It is possible that these friendships also materialized from her powerful position. See ASV, CIN, busta 32, notary Rafaino de Caresini, fols. 9r-11v, 13r—v, 18r, 28v, and 126r—v. I thank Monique O’Connell for this reference.Google Scholar

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© Holly S. Hurlburt 2006

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