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Saint Martin’s day in Venice

Pastry in the shape of the saint on horseback, with sword and cape

Who was Saint Martin? He came from Tours in France, (316-397) and was a Roman soldier, a monk, a hermit, and a bisho. The legend of his sharing his mantle with a beggar deals with the time when he was a soldier.

Saint Martin’s day is celebrated on 11th of November in Venice as a tradition that has its roots in the past (1540). The legend has it that Saint Martin gave half of his cloak to a beggar on a rainy and cold day.

It is precisely in reference to this story that the custom was born of producing and giving the now famous dessert of Saint Martin as a sign of benevolence and good omen for the future.

The festival marks the end of the agricultural year, when farmers used to enjoy their first wine, they produced, eating a piece of Saint Martin’s cake.

This part of the year is called the “Summer of Saint Martin", a partial return of the summer heat, a tribute, according to Christianity, to the grace of Saint Martin.

The cake is prepared in 3 versions:

traditional and classic in shortcrust pastry

in chocolate

using quince, the ancient version of this biscuit, covered with sugar glaze, chocolates and sugar almonds

After school on this day children go house to house but also to shops beating pots and lids singing the homonymous nursery rhyme and asking for sweets and spare money.

In the district of Castello, not far away from the shipyard there is Saint Martin’s church. The ceiling bears a fresco from Jacopo Guarana representing the glory of the Saint.

Next to the church there is the guild of Saint Martin’s, reference for the caulkers, that worked in the shipyard. On its façade there is a bas-relief from the 15th century with Saint Martin donating his mantle to the poor man.

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