I've been patiently waiting all week for the Festa della Marie, which unfortunately got rained out today. The weather just didn't cooperate. It poured rain from morning till night, causing all the scheduled Carnevale events to be either moved to tomorrow or outright cancelled. I was disappointed-but dry!
Twelve local girls are chosen to be the "Marie's" for each year's Carnevale, by participating in what appears to me to be something like a beauty pageant. The chosen 12, selected by a panel of judges, are announced a few days before the beginning of Carnevale. One of the 12 is selected to be "the" Marie by a public vote. The girls officiate at not only the special parade which officially kicks of the Carnevale season, but also at various events during the whole 11 days. The one who is chosen as "the" Marie also gets the distinction of being the angel for the following year's Flight of the Angel ( someone descends from the bell tower of St. Mark's down to the main stage in the square)
After doing a little research on the Festa delle Marie, I discovered that this dates back to very old times. Each year on the day of the Purification of Mary, February 2, it was customary to bless all marriages all at one time at the cathedral of San Pietro di Castello. At the same time, the marriages of 12 poor girls were also blessed, and these girls were outfitted by the wealthier families of Venice and even got to borrow jewels from the treasury of St. Marks for the occasion.
In 973, during this special blessing of the marriages ceremony, pirates raided the celebration and kidnapped the brides along with their jewelry. Local people set off after the pirates, were victorious and brought back the girls and their gems. Since that time, the Festa delle Marie is held in honor of the victory over the pirates. Twelve of the most beautiful girls from the poorer classes were selected to participate, and the main purpose was to draw foreigners to come admire the girls.
Today the Festa della Marie is a parade of the 12 girls, as well as costumed groups from other nearby areas accompanying the girls along a parade route beginning at the cathedral of San Pietro in Castello, travelling along the Riva degli Schiavoni, and ending at St. Mark's square where the 12 Maries are presented to the public.
This year's Maries - (photo courtesy Carnevale di Venezia official website)
I can only imagine how damaged these gowns would have been if the parade had gone on as scheduled today!
Above is one of my photos from the 2011 Festa delle Marie marching along the Riva degli Schiavoni. The first few girls are carried by gondoliers.
The parade has been rescheduled for 10 am tomorrow morning. Thankfully the weather forecast is showing all sun tomorrow. I expect to be out along the parade route.
More Festa delle Marie tomorrow. Stay tuned.