The flight of the Angel: a centuries-old tradition that officially opens the Venice Carnival.
“Il Volo dell’Angelo” (the flight of the angel), which took place today in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is considered the opening ritual of the Venice Carnival, a celebration famous all over the world. This is a tradition born in an edition of the Carnival in the mid-sixteenth century, when an extraordinary event took place: a young Turkish acrobat managed, with the only help of a barbell, to reach the San Marco bell tower walking, in the din of the crowd below in delirium, over a long rope that started from a boat anchored on the pier of the square. In the descent he reached, then, the balcony of the Palazzo Ducale, handing the tributes to the Doge.
After the success of this spectacular enterprise, called “Svolo del Turco”, which usually took place on Thursday before Lent, it was decided to repeat the initiative as an official ceremony for the subsequent editions, with similar techniques and shapes that underwent many variations over the years.
For many years the show, keeping the same name, saw only performing professional tightrope performers, until even young Venetians were challenged with curious variations.
The new name “flight of the angel” was used when, following these variations, a man with wings and hanging with rings on the rope, was hoisted and sent down at great speed along the rope.
At the end of the descent in the Palazzo Ducale gallery, the chosen one always received gifts or money from the Doge’s hands, and there were some editions that saw the acrobats use for their shows animals, boats and various other figures, making the entertainment increasingly difficult with daring evolutions and even collective flights.
In 1759, however, the show ended in tragedy with the acrobat who crashed to the ground in front of the horrified crowd. Because of this serious accident, the event, carried out with these modalities, was of course forbidden, and the program took place replacing the acrobat with a large wooden dove that, on its way, always starting from the bell tower, freed flowers and confetti on the crowd, more and more numerous.
From the first of these editions, the name “Volo dell’Angelo” (flight of the angel) became therefore “Volo della Colombina” (flight of the little dove).
This event, like most other events and shows, with the end of the millenarian history of the Serenissima, was interrupted for a long time. While in the past this show was celebrated on Thursday before Lent, in modern editions the ritual takes place at noon on the first Sunday of the festival (this year anticipated for the first time at 11), as one of the opening events that officially declare the start of the Carnival itself.
Until 2001 to fall above a cheering crowd cheering, looking towards the San Marco bell tower, was a mechanical bird with a the dove-shape, flying down supported by a rope toward Palazzo Ducale. Approximately halfway through its road, the little dove opened a trapdoor in its lower part, hovering on the San Marco square packed with confetti and streamers.
The formula of the Flight of the Angel was reintroduced from the 2001 edition, the first of the millennium, by the Venetian director Alessandro Bressanello with an artist of the Compagnia dei Folli, Katiuscia Triberti who, secured on a metal cable, made her descent from the bell tower towards Palazzo Ducale sliding slowly towards the ground, above the multitude of people who filled the square below.
From 2001 to 2008 when always under the direction of Bressanello to go down as Angel was the rapper Coolio (the only man to have experienced the Flight of the Angel until today).
The event continued to take place until today and the protagonists have always been women of the show, of sport, of fashion: for example, in 2007 the angel was the famous italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini.
From 2011 to get down from the bell tower on the day of the Flight of the Angel is the young Venetian girl who was awarded in the year before with the title of “Mary of the Carnival”. The feast of the Maries was a typical celebration of the city of Venice, which took place annually starting presumably from the ninth century. Suppressed in 1379, in recent years the celebration is back in vogue as a historical re-enactment.
Now the feast of the Maries is celebrated within the Venice Carnival and it is a re-enactment of the original festival, during which twelve Venetian girls parade in medieval and Renaissance clothes in Piazza San Marco. At the end of the parade, the most beautiful of them receives the title of Mary of the Year (and will therefore be the angel who will fly from the bell tower the following year). On the image below, the Maries of 2019.
The angel 2019 was the “Maria” winner of the 2018 edition, and it is Erika Chia, in the photos below.
Erika was preceded by another angel flew from the bell tower. This is another novelty of this year, the “warrior angel”, represented by Micol Rossi. This really beautiful girl should represent all those people who have fought and continue to do so.