Or, Bucentaurus: a golden barge, burcio in t'oro; the extremely unseaworthy vessel on which the Doge of Venice enacted his annual marriage to the Adriatic, casting a golden ring into the sea, on, more or less, Ascension Day.

The barge had its own weather augurs, as it was necessary to perform the ceremony on an immaculately clear and windless day: so unstable was the barge that the slightest gust would send it to the bottom, Doge, train of noblemen and all; as Casanova snidely remarks, »the marriage is a fractious one!«. We may reasonably believe that claim, for when Napoleon had the Bucentaur burnt to recover the gold with which it was plated, his clerks scrupulously noted that the number of the mules required to transport the gold was four hundred.

The Bucentaur preserved to us in painting is decorated in a rococo style, and so cannot be older than the 18th century (or younger, since the paintings are 18th century too), but there were at least three Bucentaurs before the last, and maybe four, for the ceremony of the Wedding to the Sea was enacted already in the age of Marco Polo, so that five centuries or more of rings lie buried in the silt of the lagoon.