According to the Venetian tradition, there was a long procession every year which is started from the Arsenale to the church of San Pietro di Castello. This procession was consist of all the brides from couples who had wedding within each year and to be blessed at the church, San Pietro.
The story of the twelve Marias goes back to the 31st of January in 944 in Venice, in the midst of the religious blessing event. A group of pirates kidnapped the brides on the procession but then they were chased by Venetian people. The Venetians made revenge against the pirates but killing them and finally, they brought all the brides back to Venice.
To celebrate this memorable victory, the doge and some nominated noble Venetian families supported the poor and beautiful twelve brides every year. The twelve brides were called “Marie” because the day when kidnapped brides turned back is on the 2nd February which is the day of the Purificazione di Maria. The twelve Marias were not only supported for their marriage but also provided with jewellery and so on! Since this reason, more and more brides wanted to be selected as the twelve Marias and this made that the selection of twelve Marias seemed like competition year after year.
The Festa delle Marie became a big event during the Venice Carnival. Nowadays the women who were selected on the contest have the chance to be the protagonist of Il Volo dell’Angelo(The flight of the Angel) flying across the San Marco square!
Find more information about “Festa delle Marie”: https://www.carnevale.venezia.it/en/event/festa-delle-marie-parade/