St. Mark’s Day & Bocolo Feast on April 25 in Venice

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April 25 is an important date for Italy. We celebrate in fact the Liberation from Nazi-Fascists (1945) and it is therefore a national holiday. For Venice there’s an additional feast cause it is also St. Mark’s Day, the patron Saint of the city. In order to celebrate it, citizens and authorities attend a solemn procession in St. Mark’s Basilica.

St. Mark’s Day

The relics of St. Mark were stolen from Alexandria in Egypt and transported to Venice in 828 by two Venetian merchants. In order to succeed they covered them under a load of pork, which easily passed through customs control because of the contempt of this food by Muslims. Venice greeted this unusual load with great joy, because St. Mark was considered the one who had evangelized the Venetian territory. According to a Venetian legend, in fact, one day an angel, in the form of a winged lion, appeared to Marco while he was in the Venetian lagoon. The angel told him:

“Peace be with you, Mark, my evangelist. Here your body will rest”.

He became therefore the patron saint of the city. And the Republic of Venice assumed the winged lion, called lion of San Marco, as its symbol. It displays a winged lion wielding a sword and holding a book with the Latin writing: “Pax tibi Marce Evangelista Meus” (Peace be with you, Marco, my evangelist). The lion is still is the symbol of the Venetians and of the whole Veneto region (you can see the flag… it’s beautiful!).

Venetian Flag, St. Mark's Day (pic ©www.bastaitalia.org)
Venetian Flag, St. Mark’s Day (pic ©www.bastaitalia.org)

The lion of San Marco appears (normally a statue on a column) also in all the cities that were once under the rule of the Venetian Republic.

Did you know that… In ancient times St. Mark’s Day was actually celebrated 3 times per year:

  • January 31, day in which the his body arrived in Venice
  • April 25, date of his martyrdom
  • 25 June, date of the rediscovery (in 1094) of the place where the body had been hidden (in a pillar of the Basilica of San Marco).

Festa del Bocolo

On April 25 Venice celebrates also the Feast of Bocolo (bud): every man gives a rosebud to the woman he loves. In the mid 1800s Maria, daughter of the Doge, fell in love with Tancredi, a young man of humble origins. The Doge obviously did not approve of this relationship. The girl suggested Tancredi to enlist in the war against the Turks and earn her father’s respect thanks to military merits.

The young man fought bravely and gained a huge fame. But unfortunately he was mortally wounded and fell on a rose garden. Before he died he entrusted his friend Orlando with a rosebud stained with his blood so that he could hand it over to Maria as a last token of love. On April 25, the day after receiving the rosebud, Maria was found dead in her bed. The stained rosebud lying on her chest. Since then, every Venetian man pays homage to his woman with a rosebud.

Giant Rosebud

I link you an amazing video (project by Alberto Toso Fei and Elena Tagliapietra). On April 25th 2014 about 1.000 Venetians gathered in Piazza San Marco and formed a giant rosebud to celebrate the Bocolo Feast but also to show the world that Venice is not a museum but a city made of people:

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  • Linda Thomas

    Hello, I’m enjoying reading all of your wonderful information and hope you can help me.
    We’ve planned our 3 night trip to Venice to arrive 30th April and leaving 3rd May. This means we will be there for 1st May (May Day holiday) which falls on a Tuesday so I’m imagining many Europeans will take a long weekend making it busier than usual.
    The only other dates we can do is arrive April 25th and leave April 28th- April 25th is Festa di San Marco so I’m thinking again more tourists making a long weekend of it.
    My question is which would be the lesser of the two evils in regards to crowds? The prices for accommodation are high for both of those dates.

    • Hello, Linda! This year Venice has been more crowded on June 2nd. So maybe April 25 would be better. But… who knows? 😉