Monday, May 21, 2012

Venice Marries the Sea and the America's Cup!!!

Festa della Sensa
(Venice, Italy) The Ancient and the Contemporary, the Sacred and the Profane merge once again in Venice. Today is Ascension Day, the day that celebrates the bodily ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. In Venice, it is known as the Festa della Sensa; "sensa" is the word "ascension" in the Venetian language. Whenever Venetians get their hands on a special day, they like to pack as much power into that day as possible. So, in the morning there is the traditional Festa della Sensa celebration, and in the afternoon -- the America's Cup!

The Festa della Sensa -- even without the America's Cup in town -- traditionally commemorates two different, important events in Venetian history.

The first took place on May 9, 1000 when Doge Pietro Orseolo II rescued the Dalmatians from the Slavs.

The second event took place in 1177. Back in those days, the players involved were:

1. The Holy Roman Empire with the German Frederick I Barbarossa (aka Red Beard aka Kaiser Rotbart) as the Emperor. 

          a) Anti-pope Callixtus III, backed by Red Beard

2. The Republic of Venice, with Sebastiano Ziani as the Doge.

3. Pope Alexander III, backed by the Lombard League

Barbarossa Pays Homage to Alexander III by Federico Zuccaro
Frederick I Barbarossa (Red Beard) was the German Holy Roman Emperor, and he had his own anti-pope, Callixtus III. Red Beard was going around conquering everybody, as emperors have a tendency to do. He was particularly eager to conquer Italy, and was not fond of Pope Alexander III, who had excommunicated him for his bad behavior. The only force with any hope to stop Red Beard was the Lombard League, which was backed by Pope Alexander III. The Battle of Legnano was fought, and the Lombard League won.

Just WHO was God's vicar on Earth? The Pope or the Emperor? That was the question. It is not easy to get an Emperor and a Pope together in the same town, but Venice managed to do just that. Pope Alexander III came to Venice. Red Beard got as far as Chioggia, but was not allowed to land in Venice herself "until he had set aside his leonine ferocity and put on the gentleness of the lamb." 

Barbarossa became lamb-like, and was allowed into Piazza San Marco, where he found Pope Alexander III surrounded by the Doge, the Patriarch, a host of cardinals and other luminaries. The Emperor prostrated himself in front of the Pope, and received the kiss of peace. 

So, the Treaty, or Peace, of Venice in 1177 is also celebrated during the Festa della Sensa. From Old & Sold:

The astute Venetians extorted valuable privileges both from the Pope and from the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa as their reward for the part which they had played in the historic reconciliation.

During his stay in Venice Alexander III was present at the famous ceremony which was later known as the wedding of the Adriatic, a rite which had been inaugurated by the great Doge Pietro Orseolo II, the conqueror of Dalmatia. As a token of Papal approval of the ceremony the Pope handed the Doge Sebastiano Ziani a consecrated ring with the words: "Receive this as a pledge of the sovereignty which you and your successors shall have in perpetuity over the sea."

For over 600 years this magnificent ceremony was enacted annually. The Doge, surrounded by the Patriarch of Venice, the great officers of State, and the foreign ambassadors, embarked on the large gilded barge, the Bucintoro, and sailed through the Porto di Lido to the open Adriatic. Here the Patriarch blessed the ring and gave it to the Doge, who threw it into the sea, pronouncing the time-honoured formula: "Sea, we wed thee in token of our true and perpetual dominion over thee." The ceremony only came to an end with the extinction of the Republic in 1797.

Festa della Sensa by Canaletto
Venice began celebrating Festa della Sensa again in 1965. The tradition continues to this very day when Venice marries her husband, the sea, except these days it is the mayor who throws a symbolic "ring" into the sea in the waters off Lido. Then there are traditional regattas, a high mass at the Church of San Nicolò, and a market on the grounds outside the church.

Festa della Sensa Today


Meanwhile, the America's Cup is one of the best things that has happened to Venice in a long time. Thousands of people are here from all over the world. The energy is terrific. I think the best way to show you what's going on is a video from the America's Cup site. This clip is from the French ENERGY Team, lead by Loick Peyron, who won the Fleet Racing Championship at the Venice America's Cup World Series. The Match Racing was won by the Swedish ARTEMIS Racing Team, while the American ORACLE TEAM USA Spithill widened its lead over EMIRATES Team New Zealand as the overall leaders in the America's Cup World Series. The next and final match will be in Newport, Rhode Island. 
Have a look; it's really exciting:

From the America's Cup site
“Hosting the America's Cup is a source of enormous satisfaction for the city – explained the Mayor Giorgio Orsoni - Here the event will find a setting that no other locations in the world can offer. The regattas before Palazzo Ducale in the presence of the famous bell tower of San Marco, the races in front of the Lido with its art nouveau heritage, and the Arsenal, which will be the base for the teams and a venue for the village, are unique places that are at once a source of fascination and an index of enormous developmental prospects. This historic city, Mestre and the mainland together comprise a single territorial unit that makes this area the heart of one the nation's most vital parts."

America's Cup in the Venice Lagoon
Sorting out the history of the America's Cup, whose rules and regulations morph throughout the decades, with battles and lawsuits galore, seems more complicated than the rules governing the Emperor and the Pope. However, its inception is very clear. From Wikipedia:

 In 1851 Commodore John Cox Stevens, a charter member of the fledgling New York Yacht Club (NYYC), formed a six-person syndicate to build a yacht with intention of taking her to England and making some money competing in yachting regattas and match races. The syndicate contracted with pilot-boat designer George Steers for a 101 ft (30.78 m) schooner, which was christened America and launched on 3 May 1851.

On 22 August 1851, America raced against 15 yachts of the Royal Yacht Squadron in the Club's annual 53-nautical-mile (98 km) regatta around the Isle of Wight. America won, finishing 8 minutes ahead of the closest rival. Apocryphally, Queen Victoria, who was watching at the finish line, asked who was second, the famous answer being: "Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second."

The America's Cup World Series is a new event, founded last year in 2011. It is a series of regattas, with each team racing the same type of boat. There are six different international venues for 2011-2012: Cascais, Portugal; Plymouth, England; San Diego, USA; Naples, Italy; Venice, Italy and Newport, USA. There is a winner for fleet racing, which is all the boats racing against each other, and a winner for match racing, which is only two boats racing against each other. From Wikipedia:

The America's Cup World Series is a series of match race regattas leading up to the 2013 America's Cup.  The World Series uses AC45 catamarans, a one-design wingsail catamaran with foils designed specifically for the event by Mike Drummond and the Oracle Racing engineering team.

Inside Arsenale
It was thrilling to see so many revelers roaming freely inside the ancient Arsenale, having access to an area which was once closed and secret, and exciting to learn about all the new projects that are bringing new life to Venice and its environment. There was wine, and spritzes, and fried Venetian fish on offer, local products that support the local economy; the atmosphere was festive and full of life. The Naval Museum threw its doors open, allowing visitors to learn about the long history that Venice has with the sea. From Wikipedia:

The Winners Inside Arsenale
Venice's wealth and power rested in her ability to control trade in the Mediterranean. This would not have been possible without an extremely large navy and merchant force. By 1450, over 3,000 Venetian merchant ships were in operation, both as supply ships for Venetian merchants and as warships for the Venetian navy. 

This amazingly large amount of ships required constant maintenance and outfitting. The Venetian Arsenal was not only able to function as a major shipyard, but was also responsible for these routine maintenance stops that most Venetian galleys required. This required a large amount of money and the Venetian government spent almost 10% of its income on the Arsenal. 

However, this naval power resulted in the domination of Mediterranean commerce. Venice's leading families, largely merchants and nobleman, were responsible for creating some of the grandest palaces and employing some of the most famous artists ever known. This opulence and wealth would not have been possible without the naval force constructed by the Arsenal. Indeed with the creation of the Great Galley and the mass production capacity of the Arsenal, "the fleets of Venice were the basis for the greatest commercial power the European world had yet seen.

Tiepolo - Neptune Offering Gifts to Venice
The Ancient and the Contemporary, the Sacred and the Profane, all come together in Venice. After 1500 years, the spirit of Venice, and the spirit of the sea, are still wed together in holy matrimony.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog
*NOTE: This was one of the most difficult posts I've ever written in terms of technical problems. Photos would not load. Formatting went awry. I was constantly logged out. Half the time I could not see what I was writing. I've tried to piece it together as best as I could; please forgive me if there are errors.This was supposed to have been published yesterday, Sunday, May 20, 2012.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fit for a King - The Dandolo Palace Signature Suite Collection at the Hotel Danieli

Hotel Danieli - Doge's Suite Salon
(Venice, Italy) The renowned French designer, Pierre-Yves Rochon, has brought the Dandolo Palace Signature Suite Collection at the Hotel Danieli back to life after a meticulous restoration. Four historical suites have been renovated with discreet modern touches, transporting the 14th century palazzo into the 21st century.

Hotel Danieli - Doge's Suite Bedroom
Featuring silk wallpaper and fabrics by Rubelli, glass by Seguso, and museum-quality furnishings, the suites reflect the finest that Venice has to offer in a warm, livable setting. Once the residence of the Doge Dandolo family, Palazzo Dandolo illustrates that quality lasts for centuries.

Hotel Danieli - Doge's Suite Bathroom
Three additional suites are more feminine in style, inspired by such luminaries as Greta Garbo and Maria Callas. Each suite has an unique personality, and offers a view of the lagoon with the island of San Giorgio in the background.

Maria Callas Suite - Salon
Christophe Mercier, the director of the Hotel Danieli, remarked how he loved the soft creaks from our footsteps on the wooden parquet floors in the Maria Callas Suite because it sounded like a home. I thought it would be a perfect suite for a working couple based in Venice for a time. The green accents were inspired by Callas' legendary green dress.

The discerning eye will notice the intricate touches that sparkle throughout the suites, a reminder that the glorious qualities of the past are still with us here in the present. The Hotel Danieli, a Luxury Collection hotel and part of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts group, has made a welcome investment in assuring that quality and substance continue to be featured in Venice.

Maria Callas Suite - Bedroom
Hotel Danieli
Riva degli Schiavoni 4196
30122 Venice, Italy
Phone: +39 041 5226480
Fax: +39 041 5200208
Please go to the Hotel Danieli website for further information.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fiordalisi - Cornflowers - Dance by Maria Novella Papafava dei Carrarsei

Maria Novella Papafava dei Carrarsei
(Venice, Italy) Venetian choreographer Maria Novella Papafava dei Carrarsei's newest dance FIORDALISI or CORNFLOWERS will be presented on May 23, 2012 at Teatro Fondamenta Nuove Cannaregio, so if you're in Venice on Wednesday, be sure to catch the show at 9:00PM. Novella is a true Renaissance woman -- in addition to dance and choreography, she is also an author and singer. FIORDALISI is inspired by her novel, Dopo di te il diluvio published by Marsilio in 2008. With computer music by Marco Giommani.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Tickets: 15 euro
Teatro Fondamenta Nuove
Cannaregio 5013
30121 Venezia Tel/fax +39 041 5224498
Vaporetto: line 42
Click Teatro Fondamenta Nuove for more information

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Journey of Malvasie, The Wine of Kings

(Venice, Italy) A Journey of Malvasie, the Wine of Kings, From Karst to Sicily or Il Viaggio delle Malvasie, Vino dei Re, dal Carso alla Sicilia, will be a magical mystery tour right here in Venice on Monday, May 14, 2012. Stories, exhibitions, 100 wines from 30 producers, and traditional Venetian food await you, so those of you who are here for the America's Cup World Series, and everyone else in town, head on down to Giardini from 11:00AM to 7:00PM and join the festivities.

The day is organized by dall'Associazione dei Ristoranti della Buona Accoglienza di Venezia, a group of 14 restaurants in Venice known for their high quality, warm welcome and respect for tradition, in collaboration with Fondazione Ligabue and Slow Food Venezia with the patronage of the Venice Comune's Cultural Activities Department. From the Associazione's excellent website:

The Associazione dei Ristoranti della Buona Accoglienza brings together 14 restaurants, which range in type from typical trattorie to international-class restaurants, but share a love of Venetian gastronomic culture and the desire to protect and promote the products of the lagoon area.

The Ristoranti della Buona Accoglienza always offer their guests the chance to enjoy the pleasures of dining in a friendly, refined atmosphere, in comfortable, peaceful surroundings.

Dotted throughout the city of Venice and its islands, they offer a wide variety of culinary proposals which, always respecting local tradition, never lack a touch of imagination and innovation.

The Malvasia family of wines comes from ancient Greece -- from the Sparta region -- where the Venetians later established a fortress surrounded by the Ottomans Turks. From Wikipedia:

Island fortress of Monemvasia 17th century
Most ampelographers believe that the Malvasia family of grapes are of ancient origin, most likely originating in Greece. The name "Malvasia" is generally thought to derive from Monemvasia, a Venetian fortress on the coast of Laconia, known in Italian as "Malvasia"; this port would have acted as a trading center for wine produced in the eastern Peloponnese and perhaps in some of the Cyclades. During the Middle Ages, the Venetians became so prolific in the trading of "Malvasia wine" that merchant wine shops in Venice were known as malvasie. A competing theory holds that the name is derived from the district of Malevizi, near the city of Heraklion (known to the Venetians as Candia) on Crete. In any case, Malmsey was one of the three major wines exported from Greece in medieval times.

The Venetians have always had their eye on the region; in fact, perhaps some of you might be surprised to learn that if it weren't for the Battle of Lepanto back on October 7, 1571 -- just yesterday around these parts -- Italy, if not much of Europe, might have fallen under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. According to Wikipedia, "some Western historians have held it to be the most decisive naval battle anywhere on the globe since the Battle of Actium of 31 BC."
 The subtitle of the festival is "From Karst to Sicily." Most of us know where Sicily is, but just where is Karst? From Wikipedia:

Karst (Italian: Carso; German: Karst; Slovene: Kras); also known as the Karst Plateau, is a limestone borderline plateau region extending in southwestern Slovenia and northeastern Italy. It lies between the Vipava Valley, the low hills surrounding the valley, the westernmost part of the Brkini Hills, northern Istria, and the Gulf of Trieste. The western edge of the plateau also marks the traditional ethnic border between Italians and Slovenes.

The entrance costs 15 euro, and that includes a wine glass, so head on down to Giardini on Monday!

Click for more information.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, May 4, 2012

The 25th of April in Venice - The Magic of Saint Mark, the Evangelist

Saint Mark's Basilica
(Venice, Italy) "Today is the feast day of Saint Mark and I heard that the Patriarch gave all the residents a special blessing at the ceremony this morning," a friend called to say. "I can feel the energy! I wish I could go over to the Basilica, but I've decided to keep the shop open today."

"I'll go to Second Vespers," I said. "I'll light candles for both of us. We've worked so hard for this city, we could use a blessing from San Marco."

Piazza San Marco
The 25th of April is a national holiday throughout Italy to celebrate the liberation from Nazi and Fascist domination in 1945 during World War II, sort of like the 4th of July in the United States. It is also Saint Mark's feast day. San Marco is the patron saint of Venice, and long before Italian Liberation Day, for centuries Venetians celebrated April 25th in an unique and magical way.

In addition, it is the Day of the Blooming Rose, a day that men give a rose to the women they love.

Also, this year, 2012, was the hundred-year anniversary of the rebuilding of the Campanile, Saint Mark's bell tower, which had collapsed in 1902, and was inaugurated "as it was, where it was" on April 25, 1912, a thousand years to the day that the original foundations were laid back on April 25, 912. (Or so the story goes.)

So April 25th is an extremely significant day here in Venice, a day to wave the flag -- which is emblazoned with the winged lion of San Marco -- receive uber blessings, celebrate the Campanile, and for men to acknowledge the women they love -- wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters and friends.

Tomb of St. Mark & Pala d'Oro
Long before Hollywood existed, there was Venice, and Venice has always been masterful at bringing myths to life. Prior to Mark, Venice's patron saint was Theodore. In the ninth century, Venice wanted to free itself from the influence of Byzantium, and decided they needed a bigger saint. They needed an evangelist.

There just so happened to be a legend of how Saint Mark was passing through the Venetian lagoon on his way from Aquilea to Rome when an angel appeared and declared, "Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum." (May Peace be with you, Mark, my evangelist. Here your body will rest.) When it came to saints, Mark was much more important than Theodore. After all, there were only four evangelists -- Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, and they had written the gospels, which many of us still read today:) Mark had founded the church in Alexandria. Mark was honored as the one who brought Christianity to Africa. Then in 68AD, the pagans resented his efforts to turn them away from their gods, put a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he died, making Mark a martyr -- you really couldn't find a better saint. There was only one problem: Mark was buried in Egypt.

So the Venetians decided to steal the body. 

At the time, Giustiniano Participazio was the Doge, and he was making big changes in town. From Wikipedia:

The Byzantine Emperor, Michael II, offered military support to Venice in return for a contingent of Venetians in his expedition to Aghlabid Sicily. The success of the expedition increased the prestige of the city. 

While the contest (fomented by Charlemagne and by Lothair I) between the patriarchs of Grado and Aquileia over the Istrian bishoprics continued, Giustiniano worked to increase the prestige of the Venetian church itself. Traditionally, Venice was first evangelised by Saint Mark himself and many Venetians made the pilgrimage to Mark's grave in Alexandria, Egypt

According to tradition, Giustiniano ordered merchants, Buono di Malamocco and Rustico di Torcello, to corrupt the Alexandrine monks which guarded the body of the evangelist and steal it away secretly to Venice. Hiding the body amongst some pork, the Venetian ship slipped through customs and sailed into Venice on 31 January 828 with the body of Saint Mark. Giustiniano began the construction of a ducal chapel dedicated to Saint Mark to house his remains: the first Basilica di San Marco in Venice.

Pope Pius X
That little adventure started a saint-stealing frenzy throughout Europe, but that is another story. What was accomplished, however, is that Venice greatly increased its prestige in the world. Mark the Evangelist became the patron saint, and his symbol, the winged lion became the symbol of Venice.

Venice eventually ended up with the Patriarch, too, leaving both Aquilea and Grado in the dust. Nowadays there are only four Patriarchs of the Latin-Rite on the entire planet: Jerusalem, Lisbon, the East Indies and Venice. The position is a stepping-stone to the Pope. The last Venetian Patriarch who ascended to the Papal throne was Pope John Paul I, who died mysteriously after 33 days. The Lion of San Marco was emblazoned on his coat of arms. Today, the new Patriarch, Francesco Moraglia, has the same coat of arms as Pope Pius X, who was also the Patriarch of Venice.

When I arrived for Second Vespers, the Basilica had been decorated with beautiful red exotic anthurium flowers. On the high altar, the Pala D'Oro was facing the congregation, the tomb of Saint Mark below. The hymns were beautiful; the voices sounded like angels. The new Patriarch was decked out in elaborate red finery, and sure enough, he gave a special blessing to Venice. After the service, I had the great privilege of praying right in front of the tomb of Saint Mark, the golden Pala D'Oro showering its magic down upon me -- it was awesome to kneel in front of the tomb of the great saint himself on the Feast Day of San Marco.

Palazzo Dolfin Manin - Bank of Italy
On April 25th, all throughout Venice, the red Venetian flag was flying -- even on the Bank of Italy over by Rialto!

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog