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Wedding The Adriatic

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

The most ridiculous, though perhaps the most pompous, show in the world is that of the annual ceremony of the Doge's marrying the sea. It is said to have taken its rise from a grant of Pope Alexander III., who, as a reward for the zeal of the inhabitants in his restoration to the Papal chair, gave them power over the Adriatic ocean, as a man hath power over his wife ; in memory of which the chief magistrate annually throws a ring into it, with these words : " Desponsamus te, Mare, in signum perpetui dominii"" We espouse thee, O Sea, in testimony of our perpetual dominion over thee."

Venice, June to : The ceremony of wedding the Adriatic was the most magnificent ever seen here in the course of the present century; there were more than a hundred gondolas on the water on this occasion, which, with the men-of-war, etc., made a most splendid appearance.

Among the festivals of Venice may be numbered the celebrated Marriage of the Sea, which is thus described : "Its numerous festivals rendered Venice one of the most interesting cities in the universe. Amongst others, there were those of Santa Marta, San Rocco, il Redentore, la Saluta, San Marco, Corpus Domini, and the Assenzione; on the latter of which days the Doge used to go to Lido, a small island two miles from Venice, near the entrance of the Adriatic, for the purpose of espousing that sea, in the Bucentoro, a vessel some-what resembling the ancient Greek and Roman galleys. It was richly carved, and covered with fine gold in basso relievo, lined with the richest crimson silk-velvet, trimmed with gold fringe and tassels, and furnished in the most elegant and costly manner, with beautiful Venetian mirrors, crystal-cut ornaments, large pier-glass windows, with Venetian blinds and crimson silk curtains. It used to be towed out by a number of the barcajouoli, richly dressed in the ancient Venetian costume, with caps and sashes of different colours, all bearing the Doge's livery. The Doge was habited in his ducal robes, his coronet, and the other insignia of his high office. The whole body of the senators, with their wives and families, magnificently attired, joined the procession in gondolas, together with all the foreign ministers, and often a hundred thousand persons, coming not only from the Terra Firma, but from the extremity of Italy, and even of Europe ; so that the water, from the ducal palace of the Piazetta to Lido, was actually covered with boats, filled with youth and beauty, in all their most seductive shapes and appearances, forming an entire carpet of boats of all descriptions ; besides peottis, in the shape of ancient temples and triumphal cars, representing the courts of Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, together with Neptune, and the rest of the marine deities ; so that it was scarcely possible to discover a foot of water. The ceremony was called the ` Marriage of the Sea.' The Doge, on his arrival at the mouth of the harbour, came on deck, and, being surrounded by the Senate, he took from his finger a gold ring, and, throwing it into the sea, he pronounced these words : ` Desponsamus te, Mare ! in signum veri perpetuique dominii ;' that is, ` We espouse thee, O Sea ! in token of real and perpetual dominion.' The Doge and Senate then returned in the same order to the ducal palace, where a sumptuous banquet was prepared, consisting of all the delicacies of the season ; and at the close of which each senator was presented with a large tray, or basket, filled with the choicest fruits and sweetmeats, to take hume to his family. This was indeed a day of festivity and triumph for the Venetians, and turned out highly lucrative to all classes of the inhabitants." [Whittaker's Venice under France and Austria, 1824.]

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