Ah, Venice and its amazing traditions! As a lagoon city, Venice has always relied on the sea for its prosperity, protection, and cultural identity.
And what better way to celebrate this bond than with a festival that unites the city with its beloved waters?
Today, we're diving deep into the captivating tradition of the Marriage of the Sea, or the "Festa della Sensa" in Italian. It is definitely one of the most important events of the Venetian calendar, besides being one of the most colorful spring festivals.
So, let's take a closer look at the marvelous Festa della Sensa!
The Marriage of the Sea: A Glimpse into Venice's Festa della Sensa
Why would our city marry the sea every year?
The Festa della Sensa dates back over a thousand years, with roots in the 10th century.
In fact, it celebrates the victory of Doge Pietro II Orseolo in Dalmatia over Slavic pirates.
The ceremony took on greater significance in 1177 when Pope Alexander III and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa signed the Treaty of Venice, which marked the end of a long-standing conflict.
This annual celebration commemorates the historic event when Venice's doge (the ruler of the city) would symbolically "marry" the sea by casting a ring into the waters, signifying the union between the city and the ocean.
The ritual was a way to show gratitude to the sea for its protection and abundant resources and it was also a symbol of the true and lasting dominion of the city over the sea.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, the doge led a magnificent procession of boats to the Lido inlet, in front of the Church of San Nicolò.
There, the Doge, accompanied by the Patriarch of Venice, would tossed a gold ring into the sea, proclaiming:
"We wed thee, O Sea, in token of true and everlasting dominion".
The Doge and the most significant personalities of the Republic would be hosted on board the most precious boat: the Bucintoro, the Ship of the Doges.
After the procession, the celebration continued with the Holy mass and a big Sensa festival (a Fair, actually) held in St Mark's square.
The Doge would also host a great party at the Doge's Palace where he would organize the greatest banquets ever.
At the end of it, the diners would have the chance to bring some of the luxurious tableware back to their home, as a symbol of the great party they have attended.
When Does the Festa della Sensa Take Place?
The Festa della Sensa is an annual event held on the Sunday after Ascension Day, which falls 40 days after Easter.
The date varies each year, so make sure to check the calendar when planning your trip to Venice. In 2023, the Sea Ceremony will be held on May 21st.
The Marriage of the Sea: Present-Day Celebrations
While the Festa della Sensa has evolved over the centuries, it still retains the essence of the original celebration.
The day begins with a water parade led by the doge's boat, the Venetian republic, followed by a flotilla of colorful boats and gondolas. The procession makes its way to the Lido inlet, where the symbolic ring is cast into the sea.
In addition to the water parade, the Festa della Sensa also features a variety of events, including regattas, concerts, and markets.
The city comes alive with the spirit of the festival, making it a truly unforgettable experience for locals and visitors alike.
So there you have it, a glimpse into the magical world of the Marriage of the Sea in Venice.
The Festa della Sensa is a testament to the city's enduring love affair with the ocean, a bond that has shaped its history, culture, and very essence.
As you wander the charming streets and canals of Venice, let the spirit of this enchanting festival inspire you to explore even more of this mesmerizing city.
With Venice Insider Guide by your side, you'll uncover hidden gems and timeless traditions that bring the soul of Venice to life.