Marriage of the Sea ceremony

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Il ritorno del Bucintoro nel Molo il giorno dell'Ascensione (The Return of the Bucentaur to the Molo on Ascension Day, 1730) by Canaletto (1697–1768). Another painting of the same subject by Canaletto, Il Bucintoro al molo nel giorno dell'Ascensione (The Bucentaur at the Molo on Ascension Day), was purchased for £11.43 million by a mystery bidder at a Christie's auction in London on 6 July 2005.[1]

The Marriage of the Sea (Italian: Sposalizio del Mare), sometimes referred to as the Marriage of the Adriatic[citation needed], was a ceremony which used to symbolize the maritime dominion of Venice.

The ceremony, established in about 1000 AD to commemorate the Doge Pietro II Orseolo's conquest of Dalmatia, was originally one of supplication and placation, Ascension Day being chosen as that on which the doge set out on his expedition. The form it took was a solemn procession of boats, headed by the doge's ship (from 1253 the Bucentaur), out to sea by the Lido port. A prayer was offered that "for us and all who sail thereon the sea may be calm and quiet", whereupon the doge and the others were solemnly aspersed with holy water, the rest of which was thrown into the sea while the priests chanted "Aspergēs mē hȳsōpō, et mundābor" ("Sprinkle me with hyssop, and I will be clean" – Psalm 51:7).[2]

To this ancient ceremony a quasi-sacramental character was given by Pope Alexander III in 1177, in return for the services rendered by Venice in the struggle against the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. The pope drew a ring from his finger and, giving it to the doge, bade him cast such a one into the sea each year on Ascension Day, and so wed the sea. Henceforth the ceremonial, instead of placatory and expiatory, became nuptial.

Every year the doge dropped a consecrated ring into the sea, and with the Latin words "Desponsamus te, mare, in signum veri perpetuique domini" ("We wed thee, sea, as a sign of true and everlasting domination"[3]) declared Venice and the sea to be indissolubly one.[4][5]

Despite the end of the office of the doge and the destruction of the Bucentaur, the ceremony of the marriage of the sea continues to this day. It is performed by the mayor of Venice aboard a smaller ceremonial barge called the Bissona Serenissima.[citation needed]

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  1. ^ Sam Jones (7 July 2005), "Venetian painting by Canaletto sold for record £11.5m", The Guardian, archived from the original on 5 April 2013; Dalya Alberge (7 July 2005), "Mystery bidder pays record £11m for classic Canaletto", The Times, London.
  2. ^ The full verse appears in the New International Version of the Bible thus: "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; / wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:7.)
  3. ^ Kennedy, Benjamin (1962). "35b". Revised Latin Primer. Great Britain: Longmans. p. 19.
  4. ^ The Bucintoro, Comitato Festa della Sensa, archived from the original on 17 February 2012, retrieved 17 February 2012.
  5. ^ Hugh Chisholm, ed. (1910–1911), "Bucentaur", The Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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