Tradition, Love and Gondola Races during the Festa di San Marco in Venice
The 25th of April is a special day in Venice. It is the day in which Venetians celebrate the Feast day of St Mark, a significant day in the calendar for most Venetians and Italians as it is also Liberation day. It is a day where the Patron Saint of Venice, St Mark is honoured with mass and a procession in the Basilica, a day when lovers declare their love for one another and of course no holiday in Venice would be complete without a gondola race. The gondola race on Saint Mark’s Day is from Sant Elena to Punta della Dogana this plus many more events including music, dancing, concerts and carnivals take place to celebrate the Festa di San Marco.
St Mark the Evangelist, whose remains can be found in St Mark’s Basilica once stopped in Venice whilst travelling through Europe. It was in Venice an angel appeared before him and pronounced “Hic requiescet corpus tuum”, here your body will rest. On the death of St Mark, two Venetian merchants Rustico de Torcello and Bon da Malamocco, justifying their actions on the now famous phrase sailed to Alexandria and stole the remains of St Mark from his grave. To successfully smuggle the remains of St Mark out of Alexandria the two wily merchants knowing of the Muslims religious aversion to pork covered the remains of St Mark in layer upon layer of pork. When the merchants arrived in Venice with the remains of St Mark, the Doge ordered huge celebrations take place and St Teodoro was replaced by St Mark as the Patron Saint of Venice. In St Mark’s Basilica there is a mosaic showing sailors covering the remains of St Mark in pork.
Another interesting tradition occurring on St Mark’s day is for the men of Venice to give their wives or lovers a “bocolo”, a red rose. It is the story of two lovers, Tancredi and Maria, Tancredi was a humble troubadour who loved Maria, the Doge’s daughter. Unfortunately his low social standing meant they would never be permitted to marry, Maria suggested Tancredi join the war against the Moors in Spain to prove himself to the Doge and elevate through brave deeds his social standing, thus enabling them to marry. Their dream ended when Tancredi fell mortally wounded on a rosebush, with his last remaining strength he plucked a rose from the bush and asked his friend Orlando to deliver the blood stained rose to his lover, Maria. Orlando kept his word and delivered the rose to Maria. The morning of the 25th of April only a day after receiving the rose Maria was found dead, the blood stained Rose across her heart. Since that day a rose is given to the women of Venice as an expression of everlasting love.
If you find yourself holidaying in Venice on April 25th, be sure to give the one you love a rose…
James – Marketing Team