April 25th is Festa della Liberazione, but Venice also Celebrates Festa di San Marco:
April 25th is an especially significant day for the people of Venice. While the whole of Italy celebrates Liberation Day (Festa della Liberatione), Venice has another special celebration on this day. April 25th is Festa di San Marco, the Feast Day of St Mark.
Festa di San Marco
St Mark is the patron saint of Venice. And as with all special events in Venice, Festa di San Marco is celebrated with a gondola race across St Mark’s Basin, between Sant’Elena and Punta della Dogana, a procession in Basilica San Marco and other events.
St Mark and Venice
According to a Venetian tradition, St Mark the Evangelist was said to have arrived in the lagoon in Venice during his travels through Europe. An angel appeared before St Mark and made the pronouncement “Hic requiescet corpus tuum” – Here your body will rest. On the basis of this message, Rustico da Torcello and Bon da Malamocco, two Venetian merchants, thought that it was justifiable to steal the remains of St Mark from his grave in Alexandria. To avoid detection, they covered his body with layers of pork as they knew that the Muslims were not allowed to touch pork. There is a mosaic in St Mark’s Basilica which shows sailors covering the relics of St Mark with pork – something to look out for on your next visit to St. Mark’s.
When St Mark’s relics were received by the Doge, there were huge celebrations and St Mark was made the patron saint of Venice, replacing San Teodoro.
The Legend of the Rosebud
Another customary practice on April 25th is for Venetian men to give a ‘bocolo‘, a rosebud (preferably red) to their wives or lovers. This practice is believed to have originated from an 8th century legend involving Tancredi, a troubadour of humble origin, who was in love with Maria, the Doge’s daughter. Of course the Doge did not approve of the relationship due to the low social standing of Tancredi. Maria suggested to Tancredi that he could prove his valour and win her father’s approval by distinguishing himself in the war against the Arabs in Spain. Unfortunately Tancredi was mortally wounded and fell bleeding on a rosebush. But before dying he managed to pluck a rose and asked his companion Orlando to deliver the blood-stained rose to his lover. On April 25, a day after receiving the rose, Maria was found dead in her bed with the blood stained rose across her heart. Since that time, a rosebud is offered to the women of Venice on St Mark’s Day as a symbol of love.