The festival on Carnival Thursday

[Stamp]The festival which used to take place in Piazzetta San Marco, celebrated an important victory of the Serenissima Republic over the patriarch Ulrico, a devotee of the emperor, on account of a bill from Pope Adrian IV giving the whole of Dalmatia to the Patriarchy of Grado. Taking advantage of the ongoing war between Venice and Padua and Ferrara, Ulrico, with the aid of feudal vassals from Carinzia and Friuli, attacked the city of Grado, forcing the flight of the patriarch Enrico Dandolo.

Doge Vitale Michiel II didn’t waste any time in responding to this outrage, he sent the powerful Venetian fleet to Grado utterly routing the poor patriarch Ulrico and the 12 rebel feudal vassals thus destroying every last vestige of their pride. Through the Pope’s intercession, they were taken to Venice and released, but Venice asked the patriarch of Aquileia to send a bull and 12 well-fed pigs every year for Carnival Thursday. The animals were therefore received as prisoners in the Ducal palace and were put in wooden reconstructions of the Friuli castles. Such an honor was bestowed upon the Federation of work smiths with the aid of the Federation of butchers that the animals were slaughtered for the whole of the Venetian people. The Venetian expression “to cut off the bull’s head” meaning to remove all obstacles or put a final definitive end to a problem, arose since when the bull’s head was cut off, the show was over.

This tradition was abolished in 1420 when Friuli came under the power of Venice. It was transformed into a harmless game, which lasted until the end of the Republic. The only historical link that remained was the participation of the Doge. Carnival Thursday reached its peak with the acrobat exploits of tightrope walkers. The famous “flight of the Turk”, a show which was held for the first time in 1548 by a Turkish tightrope walker (hence the name), who, with his pole in his hand, walked up a rope from a boat in St Mark’s bay right up to the belfry of St Mark’s church.