Tolèle are votive panels made of wood and the most original form of folk art in Chioggia.
The tradition of presenting an ex voto in order to thank a divinity for the received grace is a common ritual and has ancient origins. It is also connected to folk piety, daily life, occupations and the risks often derived from them.
Tolèle were often commissioned to craftsmen, who depicted in great detail the events after listening to the story of these tragic circumstances that were happily overcome thanks to the miraculous intercession of the Virgin Mary or some Saints. Sometimes the settings or the miraculous events were so rich in detail that they could be now the purpose of study about tradition, habits and customs of the people of Chioggia.
Once tolèle were exhibited in large numbers in the several churches of Chioggia, however nowadays only a few examples are preserved especially in San Domenico Church, San Giacomo Church and in the Dioceses Museum, near the Cathedral of Chioggia.
The tolèle of Chioggia often show the local worshipped saints or relics, like San Domenico Crucifix, San Domenico, Sant’Antonio, the Virgin Mary of the Sea…
These votive paintings have a simple style, lacking in proportion and perspective. They more describe thoroughly the miraculous event than the protagonists or details of the miracle itself. Whereas colours have a key role, in fact hues are usually clashing and very brilliant.
Chioggia ex voto can be divided into two groups: sea topics and family or town life topics.
Sea tragic events have water, sky, rocks, sea, lagoon in the background. Because of sea storms, lightning and fires, boats were turned upside down, fishermen fell into the sea, sails were torn.
The town topics describe life inside or outside houses. Here miraculous healing or daily mishaps happened, like the fall from a balcony or into a tub full of hot water.
Beside the description of the received grace, tolèle show the name and surname, or more frequently the alias of the bidder, the place and date of the occurred event, and moreover the initials PGR (=Per Grazia Ricevuta, i.e. for received grace) or the title “ex voto”.
These paintings show people’s piety and represent a typical characteristic of Chioggia, a sea town, whose incredible tales make it worth visiting!