Easter in Venice


Easter in Venice was a magnificent time. It was very warm, too warm for a sport coat. 
Although busy with people, it was less crowded than full season. 
We walked through the streets a great deal, and with some familiarity, having just been there in December. 
We stayed on the island of Lido, and took the commuter boat into Venice proper. 
The religious ceremonies were what attracted me the most. Easter eve was a special event...




The evening before Easter we had had dinner in a wonderful restaurant, and were have a nice stroll back through the narrow streets, headed for the boats by San Marco, which would bring us back to Lido. It was dark, and there were some people out in the streets, A church bell started to toll. Another joined in, then another, and yet another. Soon every church bell in Venice was ringing. The sound was unforgettable, as the whole city resonated with the clamor and dissonance of so very many bells ringing, some nearby and loud, some faraway.

Soon the sounds stopped as they had begun, bell by bell dropped off, until only a few were heard, and then none. We had in the meantime come upon a church in a square, San Giorgio Maggiore, where a crowd had gathered outside the entrance to the church. A procession came out, with a flame, which then ignited a fire. The gathering was illuminated by light of the fire. A ceremony took place, and the group then followed the priest into the church. San Giorgio Maggiore is a Greek Orthodox Church.In the Orthodox church celebration of Easter and the Resurrection begins by a late night mass on Holy Saturday.

People begin to gather in the churches and squares in cities, towns
and villages by 11 p.m. for the Easter services. Large white candles
are carried by just about all of the faithful. At midnight the church
bells toll
 as the priests announce "Christ is Risen!" Fireworks are
set off, in some areas gunshots are fired and the each person in the
crowd answers with the joyous responses of "Truly He is risen".
Worshipers light their unlit candles from the church's Holy Flame,
which is said to be have taken from Jesus' nativity cave in Jerusalem.
The pre-Easter fast ends with this lighting ceremony, so worshipers
quickly return home to enjoy a traditional soup. The Holy Flame must
also be carried home without being extinguished. The soot from the
burning candles is often used to make the sign of a cross upon a
home's threshold, which is thought to protect the home and its
inhabitants during the coming year.



One of the most memorable events came the next morning, as we attended Easter Mass in San Marco. 
We stood in line for quite some time at an out of the way side entrance, 
where stern Venetian priests surveyed the crowd. We passed and were allowed in, 
to one of the most beautiful churches I have seen. We sat in a pew near the front as 
we, the group who were honored to be a part, were coached by one of the priests on 
how we were to sing along in support of the service. We rehearsed for quite some time, 
and were rewarded with the pride of this priests approval that we were ready for the service. 
The service was magnificent. What I remember most was the sound. The round domes of the 
basilica cause the choir to sound heavenly, and to be singing from every corner of the church.
 You could not identify where the sound came from, just from everywhere. The sense of community 
was wonderful, and as we left the church we were grateful to have had the opportunity to worship
in such an historical, and spiritual place.

Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed, so I only have my memories of this service.





Later in the trip we went into one a favorite bar, where the dark paneled walls were dimly lit. 
We enjoyed the superb service, and the chance to watch the world go by in San Marco Square.






The Hotel Des Baines on Lido was where we had Easter dinner, eating a magnificent meal 
out on the terrace, in the most perfect of weather. It was a classic day, 
and after our wonderful meal we walked down by the beach. The wisteria was in full bloom, 
and decorated many a house as we strolled through the streets of this resort island off of Venice.



The last evening of our stay we had yet another unforgettable dinner. 
Earlier in the day we had been walking, and saw a restaurant that we liked, 
so went in, spoke with the owner, and arranged for dinner there. 
In Venice, when you reserve for dinner, it is for the evening. That was the case here. 
We returned with the sun still up, and were seated at a nice table overlooking the square. 
As twilight fell, we relaxed into the pace of an evening's meal. The waiter wanted us to select our dinner, and 
brought a fish out for us to approve. I had gone to the washroom, and returned to 
find two women with panicked faces, a waiter, and a huge fish in his hands. 
We settled for perhaps a smaller fish, and the waiter disappeared. 
Later on, as the lights of the square were illuminated, the waiter brought our prize fish, 
cooked perfectly. It was an easy two and a half hours before we moved to leave.

As we walked through the dark streets, crossing many small canals that were darkly lit, 
we saw very few people. This was not the crowded streets near San Marco, 
but rather the isolated streets that few people walked at night. 
As we rounded a corner we heard a recording of Puccini coming from 
an upstairs window. We stood there in the dark, 
watching the water reflect the lights of the ancient buildings, 
as a Puccini Aria poured out her soul. An unforgettable end to our Easter in Venice.

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A special thanks to Marilena Christodoulidou for providing me with the 
background on the Greek Orthodox celebration of Easter.