Festa Della Sensa – The Marriage of Venice to the Sea

Bucintoro,La Serenissima, Venice, Doge,

The Feast of Ascension – Bucintoro

The Feast of the Ascension is historic Venetian event celebrating the Serenissima (The Most Serene Republic of Venice) relationship with sea.

It commemorates two very important events for the Republic,

  • 9th of May 1000 AD when Doge Pietro Il Orseolo aided the Dalmatia (It encompassed much of today’s Albania, Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) threatened by the pirates (Slav) from Neretva.
  • 1177 AD when Pope Alexander III and Emperor Federico Barbarossa met in Venice with Doge Sebastiano Ziani and agreed to a peace treaty which ended a century long fight between the papacy and the Imperial Reign.

From that day forward, the Doge would sail on his state barge the “Bucintoro” a gilt-edged boat from the basin of San Marco to the church, San Pietro di Castello, at St. Elena where the Bishop would bless the Doge.

Bucintoro, Festa della Sensa, Venice Italy

Bucintoro – the Doges Boat

The ceremony ended with the Doge throwing a gold ring into the water.

This festival was reintroduced in 1965 in Venice with a parade of traditional rowing boats. At the head of the parade is the “Serenissima” a golden gilded boat carrying the Mayor and other city dignitaries. It starts at 9:30 but we had to await the arrival of the Priest and other Officials.

Bucintoro,Festa della Sensa,Venice Italy

Officials Arrive

The Bishop arrived by water taxi, and it was safe to begin. Fortunately it was a bright sunny day because local folklore says that if it rains on the Festa, it will rain for the next 60 days. And fortunately the Bishop arrived, otherwise there would be no peace with the Vatican!

Festa della Sensa,Traditions in Venice,La Serenissima,San Marco Square

The Priest Arrives

The ring is still thrown into the sea and following this a religious ceremony is held at the church of San Nicolo on the Lido. Gone are the days that a golden ring is thrown into the sea, replaced by this wreath of laurel.

Festa Della Sensa,Venice, Italy,

The vaporetti (bus boats) stop for a few minutes and tourist wonder what is happening, worried about making their airplanes and trains. Some walked along without ever looking to the lagoon completely missing this colorful tradition.

Venice Italy, Festivals

Punta della Dogana Venice

A horn sounds and the national anthem of La Serenissima (Venetian Republic) is played. As a salute all rowers raise their oars straight up, the crowds cheer and off they go, parading along the Riva Shaven and over to Lido.

The ring is dropped near San Nicolo in Lido. And presumably a large sumptuous lunch is held.

Festa della Sensa,Venice Italy

Dignitary or Schiavo?

Rowing with the “Doge” are a sundry of other boats. Some politicians were in transport boats, looking more like schiavo (slaves) than important representatives of the Region of Veneto. So here are some other photos.

Bucintoro,Venice Italy,San Marco Square

Festa della Sensa,Venice

Festa della Sensa,Venice Italy

Rowing in the Parade




  2 comments for “Festa Della Sensa – The Marriage of Venice to the Sea

  1. Ron
    December 29, 2017 at 5:18 am

    The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in his work “Italian Journey”, which was an account of his travels in Italy between 1786 and 1787, described the bucentaur on 5 October 1786 in these terms:
    “In order to express the concept of the Bucentaur with one word, I call it a Prachtgaleere [magnificent galley]. The older one, of which we still have illustrations, justifies this designation even more than the present one, as we are dazzled by the glare of its origin. …
    I always return to my old theme. If a genuine object is given to the artist, then he can achieve something genuine. Here was laid on him the responsibility of constructing a galley worthy of carrying the heads of the Republic on the most solemn day to consecrate their traditional dominion over the sea, and this task is carried out excellently. The ship is itself an ornament; therefore one may not say that it is overloaded with ornaments, and only a mass of gilded carvings that are otherwise useless. In reality it is a monstrance, in order to show the people that their leaders are indeed wonderful. Nevertheless, we know this: the people, who are fond of decorating their hats, also want to see their betters in splendour and dressed up. This grandiose ship is quite an item of inventory and shows what the Venetians were and imagined themselves to be…”

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