The meaning of this saying is well-known: to remove obstacles, to end something quickly, to put to end an issue without providing further alternatives, to get something done.

What may not be known is that the Italian version of this saying seems to date back to some rather bloody traditions during the age of the Serenissima — more precisely the annual festival that took place in the Piazzetta di San Marco in commemoration of the victory of Doge Vitale II Michiel over Ulrico patriarch of Aquileia. In exchange for being freed from imprisonment, Ulrico Patriarch of Aquileia was to pay an annual tribute to the Venetians consisting of twelve loaves of bread, twelve pigs and a bull.

On the anniversary of the victory, Giovedì Grasso (the thursday before Lent), the pigs and bulls were sentenced to death and killed, with a piece of their meat going to each senator, while the bread was distributed to the prisoners.

The event then evolved into a actual show, sparing the pigs and opened with a parade of the Blacksmiths and Butchers guilds, dressed in costume, who brought three oxen decorated for the occasion in front of the doge. These oxen were later beheaded with a single cut of a double-edged sword, marking the closing of every fight and show.

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