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  • In commemoration of the Doge's triumphant expedition to Dalmatia in 1000, in which he asserted Venice's de facto supremacy over the Dalmatian coast, thereafter every year on Ascension Day a ceremony was held that came to be known as the Sposalizio del Mar ("the Marriage to the Sea"), in which the Doge sailed out into the open sea and cast a propitiatory golden ring into the waves. Before this, however, the Doge would be sprinkled with holy water as a choir sang, "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean" (Psalm 51). In a footnote to his History of Venice, John Julius Norwich explains the meaning of this verse: "The text is not quite as surprising as it may appear at first sight. In the Latin Vulgate, the first word is more accurately translated by aspergere – 'sprinkle' – as it is in the New English Bible. Hyssop branches were used as an aspergent rather than an aperient" (p. 55).

    July 29, 2008