Carnival in Venice. An ancestral ritual that dates back to the Roman Saturnalia

Thursday, 1 March 2012

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During the Carnival of Venice of 2012 I spent some time doing “free shots”, street photography style, trying to capture the essence and atmosphere of a city that needs no introduction.

The Carnival of Venice is definitely the most well-known for its appeal and the perceptible mystery even now 900 years since the first written references to this famous festival. We have records of the festivities of the Carnival since 1094 , under the doge Vitale Falier, in a document that mentions the public festivities in the days preceding Lent. The official document stating that the Carnival is a public celebration dates back to 1296 when the Senate declared as public holiday the last day of Lent.


In truth , the carnival has traditions that date back to more ancient, ancestral cults of transition from winter to spring, which were present in almost all societies, just think of the Roman Saturnalia or Dionysian cults , whose motto was "Semel in year licet insanire" ( once a year, it is permissible to have no limits" ) , which inspired the Venetian oligarchy and the Latin ruling classes to give at least the illusion to the lower classes to become , albeit for a very short period of the year, equal to the rulers, allowing them to be able to publicly mock the rich; hence the idea to wear a mask on the face . By this way they kept watch over the social tensions, by following the example of the "bread and circuses" of Roman origins.


Once the Carnival was much longer and even started on the first Sunday of October and intensified the day after Epiphany and culminated in the days preceding Lent. Today Carnival lasts about ten days to coincide with the pre-Easter period but the Carnival fever begins long before, even at the Venice Carnival fever never ceases during the year. A subtle euphoria breathes through the narrow streets of the most beautiful city in the world and suggests mystery and atmosphere of the times that have gone by.


©2012 Text and photos by Marco Palladino – All rights reserved

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