March 25th, 2021: Venice turns 1600 years old! Happy Birthday, Venice, born under the sign of Mary!

The legendary birth of Venice... As the legend has it, and we frequently mention it during our guided tours, Venice was founded on March 25th, 421 A.D. The archaeological finds have by now proved that this is not correct. However, this legend has become so important over the centuries that it is now part of the identity of Venice itself.

The Annunciation

On March 25th the Catholic Church celebrates the Day of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, that is the moment when the Archangel Gabriel told her she would become the Mother of Christ. This means that Venice was legendarily born under the sign of the Mother of God, which makes the city as holy as Mary herself.
Several painters and sculptors over the centuries have donated us marvelous images of the Annunciation in different places of our city.

The Annunciation in Painting

Among those painters that represented this theme we really have to mention Giovanni Bellini, whose Annunciation, painted for the organ doors of Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church, is now preserved at the Accademia Galleries. So beautiful are the coffered ceiling, the veins of the marble panels on the walls, the peculiar floor: everything is projected to create a perfect perspective which leads the viewer’s eye towards the landscape that appears behind the open window.
In this masterpiece, full of luminous, intense and vibrant colors, cultural influences from Northern Europe are quite evident: from a single painting we can understand that Venice was an important center where one could find different cultures as well as different goods.

Annunciation, Giovanni Bellini (Accademia Galleries)

We really like also the Annunciation that Titian painted when he was already quite old. As the Angel speaks, the divine light bursts in the background. The Archangel Gabriel crosses his arms on his chest, which, from an iconographic point of view, is normally the Virgin Mary’s attitude. Mary lifts her veil from her face, possibly to enjoy the divine light and to accept with no fear the Angel’s message. Ignis ardens non comburens (i.e. fire which blazes but does not burn): these words, which stand for Mary’s Virginity, are written on the step right under the glass vase with red flowers.

Annunciation, Titian (Church of San Salvador)

And what can we say about this famous Annunciation by Jacopo Tintoretto? The environment is evocative and symbolic. The Angel seems to break in all of a sudden: he literally invades the room, so luminous in his shining white clothes. Young Mary appeares to be quite frightened: she abruptly turns, with an expression that clearly shows her feelings… too bad the famous English critic John Ruskin did not like this particular Holy Mary a lot…

Annunciation, Jacopo Tintoretto (Scuola Grande di San Rocco)

The Annunciation in Sculpture

Sculptors, as well, have left interesting examples of Annunciations in our city. The one carved by the Lombardos for the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, for instance, is really beautiful and sweet.
We find a relevant Annunciation also on the façade of St. Mark’s Basilica (which was the Doges’ chapel in the past), at the corners of the Gothic decoration on top.

St. Mark’s Basilica

The Archangel Gabriel and the Holy Mary at the corners of St. Mark’s Basilica

However, this religious theme can be found not only in churches, but also in civil architecture.
In fact, we can admire two bas-reliefs, representing the Angel on one side and the Virgin Mary on the other, at the basis of the Rialto Bridge, which is one of the most relevant symbols of our city, today as well as in the past. The presence of the Annunciation on this spot underlines once again the idea of the special birth of Venice.

The Rialto Bridge

The Annunciation at the footsteps of the Rialto Bridge

In St. Mark’s Square, the political heart of Venice, there is a marvelous Archangel Gabriel at the corner of the Doges’ Palace, facing the Basilica, which was for centuries, as already mentioned, the State chapel of the Republic. Gabriel turns his eyes towards the Basilica, which becomes a metaphor for the Virgin Mary as well as for Venice itself.

Archangel Gabriel, corner of the Doges’ Palace

To seal the identification of Venice with the Mother of God, on top of St. Mark’s Bell Tower we find one more Archangel Gabriel. This sculpture works as a weathercock, turning as the wind blows. And no matter which direction it turns, it will face his Holy Mary: wherever he looks, he will always see Venice.

The Archangel Gabriel on top of St. Mark’s Bell Tower

1600 Years Old: Happy Birthday, Venice!

This year we celebrate the 1600th Birthday of Venice!
For this important event we have projected some special guided tours that will allow us to trace back all these 1600 years of history, both in those sites that have become the symbols of the wealth and the power of Venice (St. Mark’s Square, Rialto, the Shipyard), and in more popular and hidden corners. After all, all the citizens cooperated for Venice to become such a great Republic!
Come and meet us in Venice! Ciao! #1600venezia


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