Each year Venice attracts millions of tourists fascinated by world-famous events. One of the most prominent among these is the Festa della Sensa (Feast of the Ascension). Tourists relive the age-old history of the Serenissima Republic and its intimate relationship with the sea, and the customs and traditions of Venetian Rowing.
The Festa della Sensa or Ascension of Christ was a feast day for the Republic of Venice. “Sensa” in the Venetian dialect means “Ascension”. It commemorates two important events for the Republic: the 9th May 1000AD when Doge Pietro II Orseolo helped Dalmatian inhabitants threatened by the Slavs, and the second event in 177AD. At that time Venice was ruled by Doge Sebastiano Ziani. Pope Alexander III and Emperor Federico Barbarossa met in Venice and stipulated a peace treaty, ending a century-old diatribe between Papacy and Empire.
The Marriage of the Sea ceremony was held in remembrance of this event. Every year on the Ascension Day, the Doge on his state barge “Bucintoro” sailed to San Pietro di Castello at St. Elena, where the Bishop waited to bless him on a gilt-edged boat. To highlight the dominion of the Serenissima over the sea, the Feast ended with a propitiatory rite: on reaching the lagoon the Doge threw a gold ring into the water.
Even today the ceremony is repeated as a traditional festival on the Sunday after Ascension Day. A water parade, composed of traditional rowing boats, moves from San Marco to the Lido. At the head of the parade is the “Serenissima”, a boat carrying the Mayor and other city dignitaries. The Marriage with the Sea is celebrated right in front of the Lido: first a symbolic ring is launched in the water, then a religious ceremony in the church of San Nicolò.
The programme ends with the Venetian rowing competition and numerous other events. Today, the “Sensa” is an opportunity for a big get-together, and being conscious of Venetian history and traditions: the city’s celebrations and its relationship with the sea.
Location:San Marco basin and Lido island, Venice
Date: Sunday, June 2, 2019