When Venice married the sea

Venice: perfect location for famous weddings such as Clooney’s and for honeymoons from all over the world. But who actually knows her own liaison?

Yesterday, 8th May 2016 the city celebrated the annual ceremony of the Festa della Sensa, which has commemorated Venice’s marriage to the sea since 999 a.D. The Festa della Sensa was a feast celebrated in the Venetian Republic on the Sunday after the Ascension: actually the expression Festa della Sensa translates “Feast of the Ascension” in the venetian dialect.

In this occasion two events are remembered: on one side, the rescuing by Doge Pietro II Orseolo of the denizens of Dalmatia from the Slavs in 999 a.D; on the other, the Treaty of Venice, which was signed in 1177 b the Doge Ziani, the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. If the first date marked the onset of Venetian extension in the Adriatic, the second ended the long standing differences between the Pontificate and the Holy Roman Empire.

But how was this marriage commemorated?

canaletto
Painting by Canaletto

In 1177, Pope Alexander III gave the Doge Zani a golden ring for helping in the reconciliation with the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, recognizing the Serenissima sovereignty over the sea. From then on he began the centuries-old tradition of the “Marriage of the Sea”, the mystical union of Venice with the sea, during which the Doge blessed on his state galley, the Bucintoro, the sea by throwing a gold ring into it. While dropping the ring, the Doge uttered:“you’re getting married, sea, as a sign of eternal dominion!” .

The ceremony was followed by the Fiera della Sensa, with parties, shows, charlatans and storytellers throughout Venice and in St. Mark’s Square took place a market with goods of each type and of each country, with wooden buildings erected for the occasion. A crowd of visitors, including foreigners, marched between the stalls and cafes.

The last “Marriage” of the Venetian Republic came in 1796 with the Doge Ludovico Manin; with the fall of the Republic the feast was banned.

The ceremony is repeated today as traditional feast on the Sunday after Ascension Day, and in the Torre dell’Orologio, throughout the week of the Ascension, are made to appear, around the clock itself, the figures of the Three Kings.

Pictures taken from https://www.facebook.com/veneziaautentica/

Sources: https://venipedia.it/feste-tradizioni-ed-eventi-annuali/festa-della-sensa

https://venipedia.it/feste-tradizioni-ed-eventi-annuali/festa-della-sensa

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