Happy St. Mark’s Day to all the Venetians!
Today, April 25, we celebrate the life of Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of Venice. However, it should be noted that originally, three different feasts were dedicated to the Saint. The first was on January 31, which dated back to 828. According to legend, it was on that day that two Venetian merchants successfully smuggled the Saint’s bones out of Alexandria, Egypt, by covering them with pig lard so that the Muslim customs officials wouldn’t even touch anything. The second feast fell on June 25, the day in which in 1094, it is said, the relics of the Evangelist were found again after their disappearance. The third celebration, the only one which has survived down to our generation, takes place on April 25 to commemorate the date of death and martyrdom of the Saint.
In addition to the religious rites at the Saint Mark’s Basilica and other civil celebrations, the feast is famous for its connection to the tradition of the bòcoło (rosebud). It is customary on this day for Venetian women and girls to receive a red rosebud from their beloved, son, brother or husband.
This is the reason why dozens of flower stands, selling rosebuds exclusively, can be found around the city. For €5 you can enjoy a beautiful rose and honouring a tradition while helping out the Red Cross or the Italian AVAPO, the association that supports people with cancer.
The origins of this custom are believed to be related to a love story that is as romantic as it is moving.
According to the most popular version of the legend, the extraordinarily beautiful Maria, daughter of the Doge Partecipazio, fell in love with a young man of humble origins, Tancredi. Although the love between the two was sincere, Maria’s father did not approve of it. In an attempt to help him earn the respect of the Doge, she encouraged Tancredi to enlist in Charlemagne’s war against the Arabs in Spain. The young man fought bravely and gained widespread fame, but unfortunately, he was mortally wounded. He fell on a rosebush, but not even in his last moments did he forget about Maria. Before dying, he entrusted his friend, Orlando, with a blood-stained rose to give to Maria as a last token of love.
The poor girl was devastated by the news of Tancredi’s death. On the following day, on April 25, she was found dead on her bed with the rosebud on her chest. Maria had finally joined her beloved Tancredi.
Since then, it has been a tradition in Venice, on the day of San Marco, for Venetian women and girls to be given a bòcoło as a symbol of a love that does not fade and a feeling that never wanes despite the passage of time.
Have you ever been in Venice on this special day? If yes, did you honour the tradition?
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