Venetian Boats, The Bucintoro

English Text Testo Venessian

Boats of Venice and Her Lagoon

Venice ObServer: Big Cuiser Traffic Impact on the Historical Port of Venice
Bucintoro Model Bucintoro Model, Head Bucintoro Model, Stern Bucintoro Model
Modello costruito da Imperio Beraldo,, cm. 116 x 25 x 28
The Bucintoro

It is possible that the name Bucintoro derives from the one of a large and simple Venetian transport boat, the Burcio which, transformed in a luxury boat with sculptures, carvings and gildings, became burcio in oro (burcio in gold) and from that Bucintoro. It is not to be exluded, anyway, that this name, in its ancient form of Bucentaurus might have mythological, astrological and magical resonances: Boukentauros (big centaur), according to Virgilio, was the name of one of the Eneaīs vessels, and it seems that the stern of the first Venetian Bucintoros would show a centaur statue.

The need for a sumptuous craft such the Bucintoro to serve the Duke, can be dated from the 1117īs Benefice, where Pope Alexander III transforms in Marriage of Venice with the Sea, a marine propitiatory ritual officiated by the Bishop of Castello (Olivolo) since the year 1000 in the Ascension Day.

From then on, the Bucintoro was rebuilt in the average of once a century, changing the size, the number of rower and the decorative splendour according with the Duke in office.
So it was a state boat, where the Duke would celebrate Religious Festivals and welcome foreign Kings and Emperors.

A real floating palace, the Bucintoro counted two decks, the lower to allocate the rowers and the upper, reserved to the Duke with his retinue and to the great Guests with their one, which offered an hall as long as the three quarters of the whole ship, plus a wide room for exclusive use of the Duke.

On the Bucintoro built in 1728, the propulsion was assured by 168 Arsenaloti (Craftmen of the Arsenal), which manoeuvred 42 oars 11 meters long, four on each oar. This model was a ship about 50 meters long, 10 meters wide, drawing one and an half meters.
On the bow was a wooden and gilded sculpture representing Venice dressed as Justice, with the sword and the scales. Unlike the usual figureheads, this was located upon the bowsprit base, while on the top of this mast was the winged Lion of St. Mark. Aft a small terrace or pulpit from where the Duke used to throw the ring into the Sea during the solemn ceremony of the Sposalizio con il Mare.

The 1728īs Bucintoro, launched on the 12th of January, was the most magnificient and the most tragical one: the greed of Napoleonīs troops, after looting it of all the decorations, burned it to get the gold and silver of the gildings on the hull.

Today it is easy to hear and read the name Bucintoro erroneusly assigned to another boat of the Historical Parade: the Bissona Serenissima.

Since a while in town people work on the project to rebuild an accurate copy of the luxurious 1728 Bucintoro. As is told: "Not to learn from oneīs mistakes".