Festa delle Marie, the origin and history

Festa delle marie

For years it has become a tradition in Venice during Carnival and choosing the “Marie” who becomes a symbol of the feast itself. But where does this tradition?

We are in the ninth century and in Venice it was the custom of blessing, the day of the Purification of Mary, all couples who would wedding in this year.

During the blessing, which took place in the Church of San Pietro di Castello, also they were chosen 12th poor women who were dressed with gorgeous clothes and jewelry of all kinds. Each was then assigned to a wealthy family that had the task to assure a dowry.

During one of these celebrations, around 973, Venice suffered the attack of pirates and young brides were kidnapped. The population rose up and there stood not, managing to save the young. And so to thank our Lady, who helped the people to bring them home, was instituted the festa delle Marie (Feast of Marie).

In the years since the celebration was changed with a lot of boat procession along the Grand Canal where the “Marie” were showing off their clothes and jewelry, all accompanied by parties and banquets. Also it was believed that spotting one of these 12 girls was a good omen, and this superstition drew the city many people who came from far away just to see them.

But, of course, was not gold that glittered. It could happen that these girls would attract the attention of ill intentions ending up not only courted by several other men from their future spouses, but also raped. Moreover, the choice of Marie went on to create friction between the Venetian families from all walks: the poorest because they wanted their daughter fell between 12, the richest to clinch the most beautiful. When all this became too much to bear, it was decided to replace the young people in the flesh with wooden statues called “Marione” or “Marie de tola”.

In 1349 the Republic of Venice had to enact a law that anyone to launch vegetables against the procession of Marione would be punished with jail; but this did nothing but lose further prestige to the feast of Marie, that only thirty years later was finally remedied … until the reenactment of the day.