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Feast of Ascension (Festa della Sensa) – Venice

May 12th, 2024. The boat parade and the wedding ceremony between Venice and the Sea.

Festa della Sensa - Veneto
12 May 2024 Veneto -Venice-Venezia  Folklore-Traditions | Historical reenactments

On Sunday May 12th, 2024, Venice celebrates the Feast of the Ascension which makes tourists relive the age-old history of the “Serenissima” Republic and its intimate relationship with the Sea, as well as the customs and traditions of Venetian Rowing.

The Feast of the Ascension has been a feast since Venice was an independent Republic.
“Sensa” in the Venetian dialect means “Ascension”.

It commemorates two important events for the Republic: the 9th of May 1000AD, when Doge Pietro II Orseolo helped Dalmatian inhabitants threatened by the Slavs, and the 1177AD, when Venice was ruled by Doge Sebastiano Ziani. At that time, Pope Alexander III and Emperor Federico Barbarossa met in Venice and stipulated a peace treaty, ending a century-old diatribe between the papacy and the Imperial Reign.

The Wedding ceremony of the Sea is held in remembrance of this event each year. The Doge, on his state barge – the “Bucintoro”, sails to San Pietro di Castello at St. Elena, where the Bishop is on board a gilt-edged boat, waiting to bless him. To highlight the dominion of the Serenissima over the sea, the Feast ends with a type of propitiatory rite: on reaching the lagoon inlet, the Doge was throwing a gold ring into the water.

Today Venice celebrates with a Venetian rowing competition and a water parade of traditional rowing boats. At the head of the parade, there is the “Serenissima”, a boat carrying the Mayor and other city dignitaries.

Still today, on board this boat, the marriage rites with the sea are celebrated through an evocative ceremony, of a ring being launched into the water, and the religious ceremony afterward, at the church of San Nicolò on the Lido.

The feast of “Sensa” is an opportunity for a big get-together, and being conscious of Venetian history and traditions and its relationship with the sea.

(photo credits: Vela Spa)

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