It was a mild summer evening. A refreshing northern wind blew the muggy weather away. The silence was broken by the beautiful voice of the troubadour Tancredi who sang a song for the queen of his heart, Maria. The two of them had started to plan their future together, but their biggest obstacle was Tancredi’s humble origin as Maria was no other than the daughter of the Doge Angelo Partecipazio.
When Tancredi’s voice fell silent, Maria took his hand and looked deeply in his eyes telling him with her soft voice: “I found a way for us to convince my father of our marriage.” Tancredi listened thoughtfully to Maria and agreed with her happily but also with a heavy heart: Charlemagne was marching against the Moors in Spain and Tancredi should join him in order to proof his courage and value to the Doge. Like this they would be able to marry.
Tancredi’s deep love for Maria gave him wings
and his courage brought him glory and honour in Europe. Every man, every woman and every child in Venice knew his name and spoke about his heroic deeds. One day, when the Franc knight Orlando* (whose fellowship Tancredi was part of) came to Venice on the 25th of April**, Maria’s heart poured over with joy to see and hug her beloved Tancredi again.
Orlando went straight to Maria, kneeled before her and gave her a red rose: Tancredi had fought courageously and valiantly in the front lines when the sword of a Moor wounded him to death and he fell bleeding on a bush of roses. With his last breath he took one of the roses he had soaked with his blood, gave it to Orlando and begged him to bring this flower to his beloved Maria.
Maria took the rose without a word and withdrew to her chambers where she stayed the whole day and the whole night. On the next day, when the Doge went to find Maria, anxious for her broken heart, he found her sitting in a chair next to the window. She held the rose close to her heart. She was dead.
The Venetian Valentine’s Day
Since this fateful day every Venetian man gifts a red rose to his beloved one on the 25th of April. The rose is thus known as the “Bocolo (IT bocciolo) di San Marco“ („Flower bud of Saint Mark”).
*Roland (from the Chanson de Roland)
**In another versions on the 24th of April/The 25th of April is the festivity of the patron Saint Mark.