Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carnevale Comes to a Fiery End, This Morning

The ancient rite of Dionysus clamorously concluded with the murder of a live bull. The female followers of Dionysus, inflamed by music and dance and (depending on whom you believe) certain intoxicants and/or the presence of the god himself, would reach such a state of ecstasy that they would, with their bare hands, tear a bull to pieces. That famous resident of San Michele here in Venice, Stravinsky, had something like this in mind when he composed his Rite of Spring. A version of the rite also appears at the end of Apocalypse Now.

The destruction of a bull in the wee hours of this morning to mark the end of Carnevale was not quite so dramatic as this, but it was certainly a great spectacle.

Well endowed at all points with everything that makes a bull a bull, the sacrificial victim had been moored beside La Punta della Dogana since the beginning of Carnevale--except during a period of repair after some extraordinarily high winds got the better of him.

You can find close-up photos of the bull and a description of what he was made of at the excellent Venetian blog Hello World:

As the gondolieri began to reach the basin of San Marco at the end of their annual Vogata del Silenzio down the Grand Canal, the bull, floating on a raft in the basin, was put to the torch. It was about 12:30 am. The large crowd on the molo had begun forming just after 11 pm. I'd arrived at 11:15. It was worth the wait. There's something peculiarly satisfying about concluding a festival with fire; last year they simply set loose a raft-load of helium balloons as the gondolas arrived at San Marco. Here's hoping that, as the old gospel song puts it, it's the fire next time--or next year--as well.

An effigy of a cruise ship might be rather fun to see go up in flames...

The Venice FD gets in a little practice

Time to pack up the wine fountain: after the immolation, peace returns to the Piazzetta.


  1. Hurray! I was hoping so hard you'd be able to get some photos of this dramatic ending to our friend Il Toro.But, no frenzied female followers? Pity, that.

    (Here's hoping for next year.)

  2. Still under the weather, I almost didn't go at all, but I'm glad I did. And though there were plenty of drunk folks there, you're right, I didn't see a single frenzied maenad.