The institution of the party is linked to a choice of political strategy to give the people the opportunity to let off steam freely against the strict moral and public order limits imposed by the government of the Serenissima Republic. The Carnival will be perpetuated annually until the fall of the Republic of Venice following the Napoleonic occupation in 1797.
The Carnival began on December 26th and lasted for six weeks until Ash Wednesday. Although celebrations sometimes began in early October.
The most characteristic mask worn by men and women was and is the Baùta, consisting of a white mask topped with a black tricorn and a dark cloak called tabarro. The mask allows you to speak and eat, ensuring the most complete anonymity. In the past centuries during the carnival days one could witness or be victims of licentious acts and sometimes criminal actions that were perpetuated thanks to the possibility of remaining anonymous. Gamblers wearing Baùta kept themselves from paying gambling debts. Immorality and crime reached such levels that the government of the Republic forbade the use of the mask in sacred places and against prostitutes who also practiced outside the spaces reserved for harlotry.
Men were also used to disguise themselves as Gnaga, wearing women’s clothes and a cat-like mask.
Women who did not wear the Baùta hid their faces behind the Moretta, a silent mask that was held by holding an internal button in the mouth.
The Venetian Carnival came back to life in 1979 thanks to the initiative of some willing citizens. The Flight of the Angel and the Marie Parade are the symbolic events of these festive days.
The Flight of the Angel is the descent from the bell tower of San Marco which officially opens the great event. In the past tightrope walkers crossed the square walking suspended on a rope without any protection. Following a fatal misfortune, the flight was replaced by a columbine that threw flowers on the crowd. Today the descent is ensured by excellent safety systems. The protagonist of the flyover is the winner of the Marie parade of the previous year.
The Marie parade commemorates the release of twelve splendid and poor young girls who are about to marry made even more graceful by the clothes and jewels put at the disposal by the wealthiest patrician families, who were kidnapped by Istrian pirates in 943. After the initial disbelief and the confusion generated by the brutal episode, the valiant Venetians posed in pursuit of pirates with the Doge himself at the head. They managed to reach the pirates near Caorle, where they attacked and killed them, freeing the twelve girls and recovering their precious golds. The Doge, to prevent anyone to commemorate these despicable individuals, ordered that the corpses not receive burial and they were all thrown overboard. He also established that the place where this bloody episode took place was called Porto delle Donzelle, this name still remains today.