Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Longest Marriage in History: Venice and the Sea - Festa della Sensa 2015

Festa della Sensa 2015
(Venice, Italy) Venice and the Sea have been married now for more than 1000 years. Sunday, May 17, Ascension Day, Venice once again renewed her vows to her watery husband. I spent the weekend out on the Lido, and, for the first time, really appreciated the significance of the ceremony, which was first instituted by Doge Pietro II Orseolo more than a millennium ago.

Festa della Sensa 2015
On May 9, 1000, Ascension Day -- the day on which Jesus Christ had zoomed up to heaven 1000 years before -- the dynamic Doge Pietro Orseolo II sailed a fleet across the Adriatic Sea to Croatia to crush the irritating Dalmatian pirates who had been a thorn in Venice's side -- and everyone else who was trying to do business in the Adriatic Sea -- for far too long. From Venice - The Rise to Empire by John Julius Norwich:

...the Doge heard Mass in the cathedral of S. Pietro di Castello, and received from the Bishop of Olivolo a consecrated standard [a banner believed to depict the famous Venetian emblem, the winged lion with an open book in his paws, for the first time]. Thence he proceeded in state to the harbour where the great Venetian fleet lay waiting for him, boarded his flagship and gave the signal to weigh anchor. After a night at Jesolo, the fleet came the next morning to Grado, where the Patriarch... ceremonially greeted them and invested the Doge with relics of St. Hermagoras [friend and disciple of St. Mark].

Festa della Sensa 2015
Doge Pietro Oreseolo II succeeded gloriously in his mission, and returned in great triumph to Venice. This was a victory that needed to be commemorated. Norwich again:

...it was decreed that on every succeeding Ascension Day -- the anniversary of the fleet's departure -- the Doge, with the Bishop of Olivolo and the nobles and citizens of Venice, should sail out again by the Lido port into the open sea for a service of supplication and thanksgiving. In those early days the service was short and the prayer simple, though it asked a lot: 'Grant, O Lord, that for us and for all who sail thereon, the sea may ever be calm and quiet.'

Policeman patrolling on a Jet Ski
Apparently the Lord was listening this Ascension Day, because the sea was calm and quiet, the sun was blazing, and the temperature was pleasant and warm. Venice doesn't have a Doge anymore -- right now, we are even without a mayor -- but we still have a Patriarch after all these centuries. Francesco Moraglia was installed as the Patriarch of Venice on March 25, 2012 -- Venice's birthday. That the Patriarch should still travel out to the Lido to celebrate Mass in the Church of San Nicolò (where some of the bones of St. Nicholas himself are stashed) on the Feast of the Ascension when Venice marries the sea illustrates the importance of the festival.

Francesco Moraglia, Patriarch of Venice - Festa della Sensa 2015
I have written about the Festa della Sensa before, detailing how it was ramped up into a proper marriage ceremony by Pope Alexander III in 1177 after the Venetians succeeded in coaxing Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to calm down and come to Piazza San Marco where he prostrated himself in front of the Pope and received the kiss of peace. It seems it is always a beautiful sunny day on the Festa della Sensa. Click the links below to revisit 2012 and 2013.

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

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 2015

Venice Renews her Vows to the Sea - Festa della Sensa 2013

In one of the world's longest marriages, today Venice once again tossed her ring into the Sea, cementing a relationship that has endured for more than a thousand years. Oh, sure, there have been some quarrels, as in any intimate relationship, but Venice and the Sea have managed to endure century after century. Despite a few storms, floods and other shows of temper, Venice and the Sea always work out their differences and arrive at a state of equilibrio. It is a beautiful day here in La Serenissima, full of sunshine and good feelings -- perfect weather for a wedding. 

Fort of Sant'Andrea
With the flag of San Marco flying in the distance on the Fort of Sant'Andrea, a fortress built in 1543 on the island of Sant'Andrea century to defend Venice, it felt safe and snug to be inside the arms of La Serenissima on her wedding anniversary.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. Venice and the Sea have been married now for more than 1000 years. Yesterday, Ascension Day, Venice once again renewed her vows to her watery husband. I spent the weekend out on the Lido, and, for the first time, really appreciated the significance of the ceremony, which was first instituted by Doge Pietro II Orseolo more than a millennium ago.

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