Whack. (Or BOHM, maybe.)

arzana_battipali.jpg“So what’s a battipali,” you ask? “A human pile-driver,” might be the translated response.

Ever wonder how the piles that define Venetian parking places were once driven into the soft canal bed? (When you didn’t have the mechanized version handy, I mean.)

Easy: you found a big strong he-man, gave him an attrezzatura (implement) created just for such a task, and…

….WHACK. Fatto.

Keep in mind that that there are estimates of up to a million piles beneath the Salute, each one driven in place by a batipali.

I am sure these guys were all happy to see the hydraulic pile drive come along, but personally, I’m sorry I missed this. At least we have the enduring image).

Photo courtesy Arzanà.org

4 thoughts on “Whack. (Or BOHM, maybe.)

  1. Cristina

    One of my favourite Venetian expressions is “testa da batipali”, implying that the person you are referring to has a skull thick enough to do the job without the aid of an instrument. Or alternatively, the person may be so poorly endowed with brainpower that using his head to drive poles into the muck wouldn’t be much of a waste, anyway.

  2. Tamas Feher from Hungary

    To understand the effort: a traditional venetian pole for foundation work is 13 feet long and 8.5 inch in diameter. It has to be able to hold 30 tons of brick and stonework, so it has to be hammered into the soil mercilessly to stand firm.

    The batipali used an 570 pound rammer weight raised 4 feet 6 inches to beat the pole and repeated the process until the last strokes only pushed the pole a single milimeter deeper. It probably took a thousand blows to achieve that. Must have been an incredible big physisical effort.

    The number of poles used in medieval venetian foundation works can be judged by the amount of bare hillsides in today’s Slovenia. Venetians rulers cut down all the forests for piles, rains then took away the soil quickly and only the bedrock remained.


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