April 25th: St. Mark and the “bocolo”

April, 25th is a special date for the history of Italy: it is in fact the day of the celebration of the Italian Liberation from Nazi-Fascism, and this fact unfortunately still gives rise to unnecessary controversy- but I don’t want to talk about it.
In fact in Venice on April 25th the feast is one and only one: the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, patron saint of the city. In the past, during the Serenissima, there was a solemn procession in the Piazza, a tradition that has been lost over the years.

However, a tradition linked to April 25 survives and is still very much alive among the Venetians: St Mark’s Day is in fact also the day of the “bòcolo“, that is the rose bud (“bocciòlo” in Italian, “bòcolo” in venetian). It is a tradition that on April 25th a red rose is given to girlfriends and wives (but also to mothers, sisters, and more generally to the women of the family).

Doge Angelo Partecipazio

This tradition has its roots in the legend of the contrasting love between Maria Partecipazio, daughter of the doge Angelo, and Tancredi, a young man opposed by the doge.

In order to allow Tancredi to enter into his father’s graces, Maria asked him to go to Spain and fight with Charlemagne’s army against the Arabs. Tancredi turned out to be a valiant warrior and his fame reached Venice, but one day he died in battle over a rose bush. Before he died, he picked up a rose and asked his friend Orlando to take it to Maria as a last gesture of love. On April 24th, the rose, still bloody, was given to Mary, and the young woman the next day – April 25th, the feast of St. Mark – took her own life because of her pain and was found with the rose resting on her heart.

On St. Mark’s Day, a red rose is still given to the women who are loved as a symbol of true love.