La Festa di San Martino

Festa di San Martino, historic festival, is celebrated on 11 November every year. This festival commemorates the life of St Martin and the famous legend that is linked to his name. It is a feast day that is very much felt by the people of Venice. Also because of the presence of the Saint's tibia in the church of San Martino in the Castello district.

The young people of Venice adore the Festa di San Martino. Children go around wearing paper crowns, making a racket with pots and pans and asking for sweets or a few euros from shopkeepers as gifts. Many bakeries in Venice also sell a shortbread cake with icing, adorned with candied fruit and depicting the Saint on horseback with his cloak.

We recommend that you let yourself be carried away by the childlike air that can be felt in the streets on 11 November.

Life of St Martin

Martin was born in Pannonia, part of present-day Hungary, in 316. The son of a Roman officer, he was a member of the Roman Guard until his fifteenth birthday. Martin learned about Christianity by secretly attending a Christian assembly. He is remembered as an extraordinarily humble and caring man for his acts of charity and his equal view view of all human. It is said, for example, that Martin behaved in the same way towards his military attendant and his brother, often cleaning their shoes.

After being relieved of his military duties, Martin went to Poitiers, where he was baptised and received the sacraments from Bishop St Hilary. The many memorable Venetian events of his life include the construction of the monasteries of Ligugè and Mamontier and his time as bishop of Tours. Martin died on 11 November 397 AD in Candes and is buried in the cathedral of Tours. St Martin is the patron saint of France, and is traditionally depicted on horseback making the gesture of cutting his cloak.

St Martin is in fact best known for the story of his cloak. On a cold and rainy November 11th, Martin was out riding his horse when he came across an old man on the road. The old man was dying from the cold. Martin wanted to help the man, but he had neither money nor a blanket to give him. So he took out his sword, cut his cloak in half and offered half of it to the man. Martin continued on his way with a heart full of joy. The weather suddenly improved and the sun broke through the clouds.

That night Martin dreamt that Jesus, with his cloak in his hand, thanked him for his compassionate gesture. Even today, the hot days of November are called "St Martin's summer"