The oarlocks, beautiful symbols of the Venetian gondolas

Forcola da prua

The gondolas, par excellence Venetian icons, still today are gliding lightly over the lagoon

The Serenissima shows an unforgettable charm, when you observe it from these boats.

Building a gondola takes more than one year, 280 pieces and 8 different essences of wood.

The typical comb or prow iron – in Venetian dialect fero da próva or dolfin – is the decorative element protecting the prow from collision. Its shape, with six teeth facing forward, represents the districts of Venice: Giudecca is the tooth facing backwards, and the Doge’s hat, the bow above the highest tooth of the comb, is the Rialto Bridge. The “S”, that goes from the highest point to the lowest point of the iron, symbolizes the Grand Canal.

The support on which one pivots the oar is the oarlock, in Venetian fórcola. To navigate the lagoon’s narrow and built up channels, the need for a free oarlock has emerged over time, on which the oar could work smoothly moving from one foothold to another optimizing the pressure and allowing any kind of manoeuvre, in addition to proceeding straight while rowing on one side only.

This is how the Venetian rowing perfected, standing, and if possible, high.

Forcola da poppa

Once, the gondolas were built and put in storage in small yards called squeri.

The manufacturers of fórcola were, and are, the same people who built the oars: the remèri, who have been associated in a craft-guild  since 1307.

Today there are only three of these craftsmen left: they keep alive the traditions they have inherited from their masters and, realize unique and great quality pieces, through their skilful use of traditional instruments.

For the oarlocks, which also become valuable items of furniture, the preferred wood is walnut, worked in single and whole blocks, according to the ancient principles of cutting and seasoning.

Saverio Pastor is a known and internationally appreciated remer. He learned the ancient and noble art from the last remèr masters : Giuseppe Carli, “the king of fórcola”, and Gino Fossetta, “the magician of the oars”.

This artisan expresses great attention to the fórcola’s plastic and aesthetic quality, he works with the oar champions in order to improve its performance, and while remaining true to the traditional methods and tools, he is experimenting with new materials.

Guardian of an ancient culture, Pastor has also edited an anthology of writings and photos on the construction and symbolic value that fórcolas have acquired in recent years (Forks, Ed Mare paper, 1999). Among his customers there are many “American gondoliers” and famous architects such as Ieoh Ming Pei and Frank O. Gehry. His pieces decorate restaurants and homes all around the world.

In 2002 he founded the association El felze and brought together all artisans involved in the production of the gondola and its furnishings, in addition to the gondolier’s hat and dress.

The oarlocks by Saverio Pastor:

Saverio Pastor

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