The Venice Carnival is about to start, so there is no better time to write a few words about its history and traditions. You can ask many people all over the world, most of them have heard about the Venice Carnival which is an ancient and important tradition in Italy. It is wonderful and exciting. It gets better and more intense until the last day of the carnival – Shrove Tuesday. Compared to the carnival in Rio we can say that is spectacular, and the one in Venice is simply beautiful.
History of the Venice Carnival
The history of the Carnival goes back in time when Venice was a powerful state. It is said the Venice Carnival started when they celebrated victory over the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico di Treven in 1162. However, we can find some ancient texts which mention the celebration of victories from 1094, under the rule of Doge Vitale Faliero.
In the old times in Southern Europe, the carnival/masquerade were one of the biggest events. The carnival period started in January, and almost everything was allowed. The ladies could throw eggs on the crowd, eggs on the nice ladies, bad eggs on the ugly ones. The masked people were allowed to break into private homes, it was all a big play, where everything was allowed and the spectators were part of the scene.
The Venice Carnival’s main event was held on St Mark’s Square. The marching crowd arrived here leading a few bulls decorated by flowers. Then these bulls were beheaded with one slice of a wide bladed sword. Traditionally, the Doge (the ruler of Venice) and his guests greeted the celebrating crowd from the balcony of the palace, when the fanfare started they let go hundreds of balloons. Then a young and brave rope-walker crossed the rope between the Campanile of St Mark’s Church and the Doge’s Palace. Nowadays as a symbol of the old tradition, they pull a “plaster” pigeon on the rope from one side to another.
Venice Carnival Now Days
One interesting moment and the most popular among tourists is the Prince and his rise and fall. It is the last day of the carnival and its high point as well. They say farewell to the Prince of the Carnival who got everything on the first day and now everything is taken back from him. On this day the Carnival is killed symbolically to banish the evil spirits and winter. They officially end the entertainment for a year.
The Prince got everything he ate, he drank, he had a lot of fun, but it is over. The crowd walks him on his last journey, and like on a real funeral, they mourn him. It is of course not real it is part of the play. The masquerades wipe their eyes with tissue and they imitate the unbearable pain they feel over losing the Prince.
As part of the play, the Prince is taken to court, before the end. He is to blame for everything bad happened, so he is sentenced to death by burning. He is symbolised by a strawman. When burning the crowd are crying, shouting, screaming as the Prince dies he takes every bad with him to the death. Fire is an important element of this ceremony as it purifies everything all the sins are forgiven, also the burning fire symbolically ends winter and the starts spring.
They have always been an important element during the carnival season. You can buy your own mask if you are in Venice from €5-€30 usually.