This year the famous masks and reincarnations fest will be held between February 4 and February 25
By Ekaterina Grigorieva
The first mention of the Venice Carnival dates back to 1094, and documentary evidence dates back to 1296. At the end of the 18th century, the Venice Carnival was cancelled by Napoleon’s decree, which became a real tragedy for the Venetians.
The festival resumed only two centuries later, in 1979, and since then, thousands of tourists from all over the world rush to Venice on carnival days, wishing to join the magnificent event.
The Mary Festival (Festa delle Marie) is one of the main events of the Carnival, which dates back to the middle of the 9th century. The Venetians chose the 12 most beautiful girls from poor families to be blessed in the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello. They were supposed to get married within a year, so wealthy citizens donated gold and precious jewelry to future brides as a dowry.
Today, this traditional holiday is celebrated more modestly. 12 Venetian girls between the ages of 18 and 28 are dressed in medieval or renaissance clothing and seated on an open palanquin. The procession runs from the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello to Piazza San Marco, where the “Mary of the Year” is chosen.
During the Carnival, a contest for the most beautiful carnival costume is also held in Piazza San Marco.
Masquerade costumes and masks were invented by the ancient Romans – this made it possible to remain unrecognised during the folk festivals, which especially suited noble citizens who sought to preserve their incognito.
The most popular was a Bauta mask, which completely covered the face. It was often complemented with a cocked hat and a bright cape, so it was almost impossible to recognise the owner. In addition, due to the narrow shape of the nose of the mask, the owner’s voice was modified.
The famous Columbine half-mask, decorated with feathers and rhinestones, according to legend, was created specifically for the actress from the commedia dell’arte, who did not want to hide her beauty.
The dates of the Venice Carnival are associated with Catholic Great Lent, so they change from year to year. The first day always falls on Saturday before Fat Thursday (the popular name for the last Thursday before Great Lent), and the last day falls on Fat Tuesday (analogue of the Maslenitsa), followed by Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent.