On this occasion, a procession will start in front of the Church of San Pietro di Castello around 2.30 pm, will pass through via Garibaldi and Riva degli Schiavoni, to reach the stage in the Saint Mark’s Square around 4.00 pm, where the twelve Marias will be presented to the public.
The custom of blessing the girls who were going to get married appeared in Venice in the 9th century. The blessing took place in the Church of San Pietro di Castello, the former cathedral of Venice.
On this occasion, twelve beautiful girls from the poorest families of the city were chosen, and each girl was assigned to a rich Venetian family. The family gave her clothes, jewels and a dowry so she could marry.
In 844, during the blessing held in the Church of San Pietro di Castello, a group of Dalmatian pirates kidnapped the girls, also stealing their jewelry.
The Doge Pietro Tradonico organized the pursuit of the pirates and caught them near Caorle, freeing the girls and recovering their dowry. Returning to Venice, the Doge was welcomed with great enthusiasm, and the Festa delle Marie was established to thank the Virgin Mary for help.
Back then, the feast lasted for many days in a row, and included religious and civil ceremonies, parties and banquets. The ceremonies culminated with a procession of boats along the Grand Canal, during which the girls showed off their beauty.
Starting with 1343, the twelve girls were replaced by twelve wooden silhouttes, which the people often contested by throwing stones and rubbish. Starting with 1379, the feast was canceled.
In 1999, after almost seven centuries, Festa delle Marie was revived on the occasion of the Venice Carnival, as a reenactment of the original feast.