Monday, 21 May 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!

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

Federico Zuccaro - Barbarossa Pays Homage to Alexander III
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.

1 comment:

  1. 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!