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The Festival of Saint Stefano in Venice

Local Traditions

The Festival of Saint Stefano in Venice

In the past in Venice the Christmas festivities lasted until 26 December, Boxing Day. In fact, after listening to the evening Mass on December 25 at St Mark's Basilica, the Doge and his entourage crossed St Mark's basin through a tunnel, prepared for the occasion, to the nearby island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where there is a church of the same name.

The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is home to one of the oldest Benedictine monasteries in Venice, which was founded in the tenth century, and the church, dedicated to St. George, dates as far back as the eighth century. The building, which now houses the Giorgio Cini Foundation, was completely rebuilt in a Renaissance style by the famous architect Andrea Palladio during the second half of the 15th century.

In the church the Doge worshiped the relics of Saint Stefano, kept there since 1109. During the next day the Doge celebrated with his entourage in St Mark's Square whilst the local and noble people paraded the streets wearing masks. Boxing Day, in fact, marked the start of the Venice Carnival, a very long period since it ended on Ash Wednesday (March or April).

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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