Today is “Ascension”

Today (Sunday 28th May) is “Festa de la Sensa”, as they call Ascension Day in Venetian. (In Italy the feast is shifted to the Sunday following the Thursday on which the feast is officially located.) So here is Francesco Guardi’s great painting of the event, which partly helped to inspire the culminating scene of my novel. The great gold and red ship dominating the canvas is the Bucintoro, the ceremonial boat in which the Doge was rowed out to the Lido, where the annual festival of the marriage of Venice to the sea was held; the ceremony still continues to this day, the Doge now replaced by the Mayor of the city, and the Bucintoro by a dignified but rather less magnificent vessel.
The Bucintoro was burned by the order of Napoleon after the fall of the Republic, one of the many acts for which the city has never forgiven him. It was one of the last great symbols of the city – and, as this painting suggests, perhaps it had become all too apt a symbol of the decline of Venetian power; it was so top-heavy with gilded ornaments and baubles that it could not actually set out from its dock in the Arsenale if the weather was even slightly menacing – and it could certainly never leave the lagoon itself.

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