The doge and his entourage would be rowed out to the mouth of the Adriatic in the Bucintoro, a splendidly ornate and gilded ceremonial barge, followed by a flotilla of assorted boats. The supreme Head of State would then throw a gold ring into the water, proclaiming, 'Desponsamus te, mare. In signum veri perpetuique dominii' (We espouse thee, O sea, as a sign of true and perpetual dominion).
The ceremony came to an end at the end of the 18th century with the fall of the Republic, but was revived, albeit in a somewhat watered down form, in the 1960s.
Although the Feast of the Ascension was on Thursday, La Sensa was being celebrated today. And so this morning I joined a few other spectators at the Punta dell Dogana to watch the boats gather in the Bacino. I think I must have been spoilt by the paintings of Canaletto and Guardi, for I was somewhat disappointed by what I saw, a single 'galley' and fifty or so rowing boats!
The wedding might once have been a full-blown 'church' affair, but today's ceremony had more the feeling of a registry office!