The occasion when Venice celebrates its special relationship with the sea, is the Feast of the Sensa, which takes place the day of the Ascension of Christ (Sensa in Venetian dialect).
Originally celebrated an important moment in the history of the Republic: the May 9, 1000 when the Doge Pietro II Orseolo conquered Dalmatia saving the local population threatened by the Slavs. The date marked the beginning of the expansion of Venice in the Adriatic.
Initially oriented towards a propitiatory character with the sea, the ceremony took place in a solemn procession of boats, headed by the ship of the Doge (from 1253 the Bucentaur), that reached the open sea coming out of the lagoon through the mouth of the Lido.
In the waters of the Lido right in front of the church dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, recited a prayer in order that "for us and for all navigators the sea stay calm and quiet"; after which participants were blessed with holy water, the rest of which was then poured into the sea while the priests chanted Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor.
A second important moment in the history of the feast of the Sensa was in 1177; In that year, under the Doge Sebastiano Ziani, Pope Alexander III and the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa signed the peace treaty in Venice that ended the century-old dispute between the Papacy and the Empire. At that time was inaugurated the rite of the Wedding with the Sea. The Doge, together with the bishop of Venice dropped a gold ring consecrated in the sea, and with the words "We're getting married, the sea. As a sign of true and perpetual dominion" declared Venice and the sea indissolubly united, reaffirming the dominion of the sea Adriatic.
The Festa della Sensa today
Since 1965 Venice has resumed to celebrate the event of the Feast of the Sensa. In Ascension Day, a procession of traditional boats rowing preceded by the Serenissima (boat also used in the Historical Regatta), which carries the mayor and other authorities proceed from San Marco to the Lido, where in the waters in front the church of St. Nicholas is recalled the rite of the Wedding with the Sea by launching a symbolic ring into the sea and with a Mass celebrated in the church of St. Nicholas.
The event continues with Venetian rowing competitions, organized by the rowing clubs that coordinate the festival which also serve to emphasize the relationship of Venice with the sea, that has ancient roots, but continues to this day.
On this occasion, are rewarded organizations, institutions and individuals who have brought honor to the city by their activities.