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  • Writer's pictureStefania Gioia

Saverio Pastor and a Heritage to Save

It was 1975, the year when Vietnam war finally came to an end and Bill Gates founded Microsoft. Saverio Pastor, who nowadays is one of the last oar makers - remèri in Venetian dialect, at that time was just a high-school teenager looking for an occupation during summer time. Born and raised in Venice, he was deeply fascinated by Venetian language and used to buzz around the workshop of master Bepi Carli, who descended from an important shipwright family and spoke a rich, archaic dialect.

Once in the ancient workshop, the boy felt like stepping back to the Medieval age and couldn’t help but fall in love with this extraordinary craft. Despite, according to Carli, he was already too old to learn the job, Saverio, mesmerized, would go to the workshop every day and watch the craftsman working for 9 hours. Given his perseverance, Bepi Carli couldn’t help but take the boy and introduce him to the secrets of his charming job.

More than 40 years later, Saverio and his excellent right hand Pietro Meneghini build oars and forcole according to the ancient tradition started by the corporation of remèri in 1307. While the oar has a particularly hydrodynamic shape, the forcola, consisting in a single piece of wood, is a type of oarlock that allows the boat to be propelled with one oar only. Both of the components are built according to the voga alla veneta style, that developed in order to navigate the city’s narrow canals, bordered by buildings, using a gondola or a typical flat-bottomed boat. Here’s why this style of rowing, performed by just one man standing, is unique in the world.

There’s more: in order to guarantee the perfect balance, each piece has to be customized according to the rower’s body structure, therefore each oar or forcola is a unique, handcrafted masterwork. As Venetian people and boat owners in town are progressively decreasing, Saverio Pastor and the other 3 labs left fortunately found alternative markets. Italian and foreign admirers, falling in love with the design, buy the pieces as precious furniture items; on the other side, components are requested by voga enthusiasts from all over the world and very often the lab ships them overseas.

Pastor, not only fond of his profession but also passionate about culture and traditions around it, has participated in numerous exhibitions and events in Italy and abroad and has published an anthology of photographs and writings. In 2002, he founded El Felze, an association that aims to preserve the cultural heritage and retrain the traditional jobs involved in the process of building a gondola: you’d be surprised to know they are not less than 10!

As many other artisans in town, he’s certain that keeping alive these historical trades would help Venetians to take back their own city, rehabilitating the building stock and providing jobs for the population.

Including his workshop in our urban tours off the beaten path, we like to promote his ideas and give our small contribution as a proof of love for Venice.

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