Originating in the ninth century, the Procurator's original duties were to attend to the fabric and administration of St Mark's Basilica. There was originally one Procurator, appointed by the Doge, but between 1231 and 1442, their number increased to nine procurators appointed by the Great Council of Venice. Their duties also expanded in 1269 to include the protection of orphans and the insane, as well as the execution of wills. Appointment as a Procurator of San Marco was one of the highest honours the Most Serene Republic could bestow on its leading citizens, next to the Dogate, and along with the latter, the only appointments for life.
The nine procurators consisted of:
- the Procuratori de Supra, who took care of the administration of St Mark's Basilica;
- the Procuratori de Citra, who dispensed charity and attended to wills in the sestieri of San Marco, Castello, and Cannaregio; and
- the Procuratori de Ultra, who performed the same function for the sestieri of Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, and San Polo.
The office today
The office of Procurator of St Mark's was not abolished at the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797. Instead, the Procurators remained responsible for administering the assets of St. Mark's Basilica, under the authority of the Patriarch of Venice.
The position was confirmed by a royal decree issued by Victor Emmanuel III of Italy in 1931. Today, there are seven procurators, with the president holding the title of First Procurator of St Mark's (Primo Procuratore di San Marco). The Procurators work closely with architects and engineers to ensure the historic preservation of St. Mark's Basilica.