Marriage to the Sea

May 15, 2014 / Events
Venezia, Veneto

The history of the Venetian Republic, sometimes called the “Serene Republic”, is embodied in the Doge’s Palace. Massive, imposing, impressive, over the centuries it evolved and transformed from a fortified castle into a reflection and representation of the Republic’s undeniable wealth and rise to power.

Doge's Palace
Scala dei Giganti - Mars & Neptune

From the time of the first Doge in 697 to the last in 1797, the Palace survived over ten centuries of fire, plagues, storms, earthquakes and uprisings. Not only did it become the home for the Doge (chief magistrate) but it was the seat where all the principal roles of government were housed and where the Venetian aristocratic ruling class assembled, ruled, administered and dispensed power and justice.

The ever vigilant Winged Lion
Doge's Palace

However, the “Serene Republic” wasn’t always all that serene. Gaining and maintaining dominion over the seas demanded all of her resources, human and otherwise.

Last glimpse of Venice
Corridor to the prison
View from the Bridge of Sighs

Dependent on the good graces of the sea, it was the Doge’s solemn and sacred duty to lead the annual “Marriage to the Sea”  (Sposalizio del Mare). On Ascension Day (Festa del Sensa), the bucintoro or ship of state would lead a procession of boats and the Doge would toss a blessed wedding ring into the sea with the blessing, “We wed thee, sea, in the sign of the true and everlasting Lord”.


Today, Venice’s eternal union with the sea remains critical to her survival and, even though the last bucintoro was destroyed by Napoleon in 1798, the same vows are renewed to this day by the mayor. (The Festa della Sensa this year is scheduled for Saturday, May 31st, and Sunday June 1st.)


Each time I leave Venice, even though I don’t toss a ring (or anything!) into her waters, I do make a wish for her protection until I return.

1000 years of history


Victoria De Maio

by Victoria De Maio

Victoria is a lover of all things Italian! A travel advisor, blogger, writer, tour leader, and published author, she is passionate about traveling to and writing about Italy.

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7 Responses to “Marriage to the Sea”

  1. Rosemary

    Ah Venice! I love that city – so magical – so full of mystery and wonder and sheer beauty! We visited many times when we lived in Verona. I loved every minute. Grazie for bringing me back this morning!

  2. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    How wonderful. We could all make or reaffirm our vows with the sea! How we love it and how we need it and how we must try hard to save it! Thanks for this post

  3. Janice Peters

    Loved this post. I cry every time I see La Serenissima as it is amazingly romantic and out of this world. Grazie Mille! Janice

  4. Although I have visited Italy many times, 2 yrs ago was my first to Venezia…it was love at first sight…and smell and sounds!! Grazie Mille for this brief moment back to a magical city.

  5. Been to Venice several times and took Irish and American Paediatric Society meetings there. Marvelous! We had it dry at St. Mark’s Square–and also wet when we had to walk on planks. Italian restaurants are fantastic –and–in my opinion–at least as good as French cuisine! Hope Venice can be saved! Grazie!

  6. Grazie to all of you for your kind comments and sharing your memories of my favorite city, Venezia!
    (Sorry my response is a bit late, I was in Italy!)

  7. Who knew Venezia was your fav! It’s a city we have not yet visited…on the list. Would love to visit when you are there! Is there anywhere else in the world to see but Italy!!! It just keeps calling one back!


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