The “Festa della Sensa” is one of the most heartfelt and
long-standing ceremonies in Venice, born to celebrate the
bond between the sea and the Serenissima Republic
Originally one of the many religious celebrations – the Ascension of Virgin Mary, “Sènsa” in Venetian dialect “- this ceremony acquired a much more significant symbolic value after two important happenings.
On the occasion of the Festa della Sensa in the year 1000, Doge Pietro II Orseolo left for Dalmatia to put an end to the raids of the pirates, who threatened the trade routes crossed by Venetian ships. The operation effectively marked the supremacy of the Venetian fleet in the Adriatic Sea.
The second major event that is remembered on this occasion is the signing of the “Peace of Venice” in 1177, that marked the end of hostilities between the Papacy and the Empire, thanks to the diplomatic mediation of Doge Sebastiano Ziani.
The Pope, grateful for the result, gave the Doge a ring to be throw into the sea during the celebrations of the Sensa, in order to give a renewed sanctity to the feast.
The event, still today, welcomes both secular moments and religious rites, confirming the cultural and spiritual opening of Venice.
As for any respected wedding, evocative details are guaranteed: the bucintoro, the boat that traditionally carried the Doge from St. Mark’s Square to the Lido, where the ceremony takes place, is accompanied by a real naval procession.
Dozens of rowboats cross Venice along the Cannaregio Canal, the canal overlooked by Ca’ Bonfadini, first reaching the basin in front of St. Mark’s Square, where they pay homage to the bucintoro (raising the oars in the so-called “alza remo” tribute) and then following the Doge’s galley to the Lido.
At the Lido, the wedding ceremony is cloaked in solemnity: the procession stops and the mayor (the authority that today represents the Doge), assisted by the Patriarch of Venice, empties an ampoule of holy water into the sea and throws a ring blessed by the patriarch into the waves, while pronouncing the words “We marry you, sea, as a sign of true and perpetual dominion”.
At the end of the ceremony, the Mayor and the Patriarch go to the church of San Nicolò, for the solemn mass.
The Festa della Sensa also includes a cheerful component that makes it additionally involving and sparkling.
On the same route of the boat parade, the “Regate of Sensa” are also held: gondolas governed by four men, two-oared “mascarete” boats with a female crew and the youngest boys on “pupparini”, light boats similar to gondola for the delicacy of their lines, challenge each other to rowing.
The lagoon is fulfilled with colours and voices, a real party that fills the heart with lightness and good mood.