Into the Lion's Mouth

Bocca di Leone, Palazzo Ducale, Venice
Bocca di Leone, Palazzo Ducale
The Bocca di Leone (Mouth of a Lion) was a postbox with a difference. It was the means by which one Venetian could secretly denounce another. It is often thought that the denunciations were anonymous, but this was not the case. A note had to be signed and also include the signatures of two witnesses to his or her good character. Anonymous accusations were meant to be burnt, but the information so provided could be acted upon, if it involved matters concerning state security.

There was a financial incentive for citizens to snitch on one another, as those making a denuncia or denontia were rewarded for their efforts, if their information proved correct. And, of course, their names would remain known only to the Venetian State. 

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