Bucentaur (Ital. il Bucentoro, of uncertain etymology), the state galley in which the Venetian doge annually, on Ascension day, wedded the Adriatic. It was 100 ft. long, 21 ft. in extreme breadth, gorgeously gilded and adorned, and was manned by 168 rowers, four to each oar, and 40 sailors. The custom dates from the victory of the doge Sebastiano Ziani over the emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1177, when Pope Alexander III. received the conqueror on the Lido and gave him a gold ring and authority to espouse the Adriatic to Yen-ice. Every year afterward the doge in this galley, accompanied by numerous feluccas and gondolas, and saluted by artillery, went to the mouth of the Lido and dropped a ring into the Adriatic with the words: Desponsamus te, mare, in signum veri perpetuique dominii. When the French took Venice in 1797, the Bucentaur was burned and the custom of the espousal was discontinued. A model of the original Bucentaur, made from drawings, is in the arsenal at Venice; but the galley of the time, with its carvings of cornucopias, medallions, marine deities, allegorical groups, etc, though always claimed to be the self-same vessel, was so frequently repaired, readorned, and replaced in parts, that very little if any of the original structure remained.

The Bucentaur.

The Bucentaur.