When it comes to Venetian masks’ history, few know whence they come from. Why are we so enamored by this tradition? Let’s find out…
How It All BeganThe tradition took effect in the thirteenth century when the people of Italy, Venice, held events from December 26th right up to the beginning of the Lent season. During this season, the barrier between the upper and lower classes was momentarily struck down. People from all classes, the aristocrats and the peasant, interacted freely without divulging their identity.
The Veil Of FreedomWith their identities concealed, men and women from different social classes were free to act upon their deepest desires. After all, in the small city of Venice, there was always a chance someone would recognize the young heir of a noble or the fishmonger’s son with the aristocrat’s daughter.
Hence, the mask took on the role of a mischief veil, where Venetians indulged in illicit acts of gambling, flirting, clandestine affairs, dancing, partying, promiscuousness, etc.
The Pragmatic Solution Or An Immoral State?With the tradition in play for years, many asked the question: What was the real purpose behind this, and was it morally correct?
Venice was among the most prosperous regions back then, , and the nobles were perhaps the only ones capitalizing its prosperity. The mask served as a way to provide the poor with a voice, if not the face. But even with the temporary freedom, there was a high price.
The state of Venice eventually descended into a hub of immorality and decadence. Gambling was rampant. Sexual dalliances were high, even among the clergy.
The End Of The Era Of Masquerade - A New Beginning
Watching the city crumble with moral decay, the Catholic Church took a stand, sternly declaring the ban of the Venetian mask before Lent. This ended the period of the masquerade and instead was replaced by the carnival.
With the establishment of Venetian Masquerade now collapsed, rose from the ashes a tradition that would evolve and be adopted worldwide…the masquerade ball parties as we now know it.
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