(Read in Italian) Fasten your seat belts…Carnivale is about to unfold in Venice! Seriously! Fasten your seat belts because Saturday February 2 there will be the flight of the Angel in which a beautiful young woman will throw herself off the bell tower of San Marco to mark the beginning of Carnevale!
I thought I already knew a lot about the traditions of Carnevale…the masks, the Commedia dell’arte, the costumes and the masked balls. But recently while reading Venezia Today I learned that before all the Carnevale activities can begin, first there must be the la processione delle dodici Marie – The procession of the 12 Marias and then il volo dell’angelo – The flight of the angel (sometimes called the “Flight of Colombina” and other times “The flight of the Turk“. You learn something new everyday!
Before the “flight” there is the procession of the Marias that evokes the Venetian Doge’s annual homage to twelve beautiful girls (humble venetian girls, I’ll have you know!) by giving them a magnificent jewels and dowries. The Marias depart from San Pietro di Castello at 2 in the afternoon and march along the bank of the Schiavoni before reaching Piazza San Marco around 4pm in the afternoon where they are introduced to the awaiting crowd and where one of them is selected because of her charms and beauty to recreate the flight of the Angel. Who knew jumping of a building could be a prize for a beauty contest. Only in Italy!
So the next day, the most beautiful and humble Maria of them all, following an antique practice that dates back to the 1500s, will throw herself of the San Marco bell tower (99 meters high) attached to a rope while she is lowered to the loggia do the Palazzo Ducale. This is a recreation of an homage to the Venetian Duke in which he is presented by the young girl with a scepter from heaven with which he proclaims the beginning of Carnevale. The tradition began in the mid-1500’s when a young Turkish acrobat succeeded with the help of balancing stick to tight rope walk to the top of the bell tower. When he came back down he stopped at the balcony of the Ducal Palace and presented the Duke with his gift of a scepter. It became a tradition every year after that up until 1749 when the spectacle ended in tragedy; at one point the acrobat fell to the ground amidst the horrified crowd. Because of this grave accident, the practice was prohibited. (Obviously his seat belt wasn’t fastened well!)
In 2001, however, the Venetian people threw caution to the wind and decided to bring back the famous flight of the angel, throwing a live person from San Marco’s bell tower. For years they had substituted the acrobat with a wooden puppet. Now we can admire not only the antique costumes of old Venezia watching the procession of the Marias, but we can enjoy the harrowing spectacle in which a your girl, for the day named Maria, jumps of the Campanile to swing high above Piazza San Marco, in a blaze of color, music, confetti and balloons!
Welcome Carnevale 2013!
Carnevale 2012 : Volo della colombina
Carnevale 2010 : Volo della colombina