This weekend marks the annual Festa della Sensa in Venice. Although the festival didn’t start until 1965 it commemorates and recreates the ancient traditional ceremony of Sposalizio del Mar, the event in which Venice is symbolically married to the sea.
The origins of the ceremony date to the period when Venice was a sovereign state (from 697 AD to 1797 AD). It commemorates two important events in the state’s history: the May 9, 1000 departure of Doge Pietro II Orseolo with a fleet on the successful mission to subdue Narentine pirates threatening Venetian power, trade and travel on the Adriatic and Doge Sebastiano Ziani’s successful negotiation of the Treaty of Venice in 1177. The treaty ended a long standing conflict between the Holy Roman Empire headed by Frederick Barbarossa and the Papacy.