Festa delle Marie

This festival was recently re-established during Carnival and recall a very ancient legend saying that in Venice, group wedding took place at the church San Nicolò at the Lido: the brides departed in a water procession from the Arsenal to join their future husbands who were waiting for them. In 943 a.d., pirates from Dalmatia made a reckless raid on the procession, kidnapped the brides and stole their dowries but the Venetians chased after them by boat, killed them all and brought the brides back.
To recall the event every year, the six zones of Venice used to collect money for a dowry to give to 12 needy girls, the Marie, who then went to the old cathedral Saint Peter’s Church to be blessed by the bishop who escorted them to San Marco to meet the Doge. From there, the procession continued aboard the Doge's boat - the Bucintoro along the Grand Canal with crowds of Venetians on the banks.
Nowadays, we still commemorate this tradition with a procession of 12 selected beautiful girls, accompanied by historical groups in costumes: the "belle of the ball" will be elected on mardi gras.

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