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Venice Carnivale
Carnevale di Venezia

The Venice Carnival (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia) is the most internationally known festival celebrated in Venice, Italy, as well as being one of the oldest.

This congregation of masked people, called Venice Carnival, began in the 15th century, but the tradition can be traced back to the beginning of the 14th Century. In 1436 mask makers or mascareri were granted with their own guild. From that point Carnival went from strength to strength building up to be the focal point of many peoples social calendar.

Venice Carnival Masked Citizens



The name Carnival comes from "carne" or meat. In the Christian calendar the time after Shrove Tuesday was when lent began and many people gave up eating meat and other luxury items for 40 days. In the earlier years Carnival began at Christmas and lasted until Shrove Tuesday.

A fact reflected in the carnivals in Brazil and Louisiana. Wearing masks for disguise reached was at its height in the 18th Century. The people of Venice used Carnival to mingle and even to trade sexual favours. Recognition whilst wearing a mask was unlikely and the commoner could mix with the higher social classes.

Napoleon's and his troops ended the Venetian Republic in 1797. It is difficult to accept that the first modern mask shop was opened as recently as 1978, re-establishing the traditions of Carnival. There are several categories of Venetian mask Commedia dell'Arte masks like Harlequin and Pierrot. Fantasy masks some inspired by older designs. Traditional Venetian masks - white volto half-mask with nose cover -plague doctor's mask with its phallic beak. Both apparently used to protect wearers from the plague.


Venician Masks