On April 25th Celebrate the Patron Saint of Venice & Give Your Lover a Red Rosebud!
In Italy April 25th is Liberation Day, a national holiday commemorating the end of World War II in 1945 and the Nazi occupation of Italy. But for Venetians April 25th is an even older holiday, Festa di San Marco, or The Feast of St Mark.
April 25th is the anniversary of St Mark’s death in 68 A.D. and in Venice is a lively celebration.
Mass is held in the morning at Saint Mark’s Basilica, and there is music, dancing, concerts and carnivals throughout the day.
Of course it wouldn’t be a festival in Venice without a Gondola Race! The "Regata di Traghetti" starts at the island of Sant’Elena and ends at the Punta della Dogana, at the entrance of the Grand Canal.
The Patron Saint of Venice
One look at Saint Mark’s Square with Saint Mark’s Basilica is proof enough that the city is anything but subtle about their pride in their patron saint. The winged lion, which represents St Mark and is the famous symbol of the city of Venice, can also be found in Piazza San Marco, and all over Venice for that matter.
Saint Mark may be a ubiquitous symbol in Venice today, but before the year 828 Saint Mark's remains were in Alexandria. Being an important maritime power, Venice needed equally important relics, a status symbol at the time. Venetian merchants Buono da Malamocco and Rustico da Torcello were up for the job, and smuggled Saint Mark’s remains from Alexandria into Venice. They accomplished the difficult task by hiding the relics in shipments of pork meat, which were understandably off-putting to the Islamic inspectors. Perhaps it’s because of the great effort taken to "import" Saint Mark’s remains that Venetians have always been so proud of their patron saint.
Festival of the Blooming Rose
The celebration is also known as the "Festival of the Blooming Rose, " and it is tradition for men to give the woman they love a "bocolo," a red rose bud to symbolize their love.
The legend surrounding the tradition of the rosebud centers on two star-crossed lovers, Maria Partecipazio, the Doge’s daughter, and Tancredi the troubadour. Maria was a beautiful noblewoman, whose father forbid her romance with Tancredi because of his lower social class.
Tancredi enrolls in the army, seeking fame and glory through battle that would elevate his social status, making him able to return home worthy of Maria. He fought valiantly, but was ultimately killed in battle in Spain. Tancredi fell mortally wounded onto a rosebush, and with the last of his strength picked a rosebud and asked his friend Orlando the Paladin to take it back to Maria.
Orlando returned to Venice on April 24th, and true to his word gave Maria the rosebud, still stained with Tancredi’s blood. The next day, on April 25th, Maria was found dead with the rose over her broken heart.
So while flowers are always a welcome gesture, if you’re in Venice for April 25th, be sure to symbolize your eternal love with a red rosebud!