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Vessel Name: Bucentaur
The Bucentaur (bew-sen-tor; Bucintoro in Italian and Venetian) was the state barge of the doges of Venice. It was used every year on Ascension Day up to 1798 to take the doge out to the Adriatic Sea to perform the "Marriage of the Sea" -- a ceremony that symbolically wedded Venice to the sea every year on the "Festa della Sensa" (Ascension Day). Scholars believe there were four major barges, the first significant bucentaur having been built in 1311. The last and most magnificent of the historic bucentaurs made its maiden voyage in 1729 in the reign of Doge Alvise III Sebastiano Mocenigo. Despite Venice's economic and maritime decline, in 1601 at the behest of the Doge Marino Grimani, the Venetian Senate decided to have a new bucentaur built at the cost of 70,000 ducats; although the existing one was still in service, experts regarded it as too old. The designer of the new ship is unknown, but he was selected from among the most qualified marangoni (ships' carpenters) of the Arsenale. The work was supervised by Marco Antonio Memmo, the sovraprovveditore (overseer of the provveditore) of the Arsenale. The new vessel was approved and praised by all on its maiden voyage to the Lido with the newly elected Doge Leonardo Donato on Ascension Day, 10 May 1606. The third barge was modelled after its predecessors, its decorations influenced by late-Renaissance forms. Contemporary illustrations show that the sides of the bucentaur were covered by mythical figures of sirens riding seahorses, and that the loggias were supported by curved dolphins amongst intertwined garlands and scrollwork taking on the form of monstrous hydras extending from the ends of the two bow spurs. It was once believed that most of the wooden sculptures, including a large sculpture of Mars, two lions of St. Mark positioned on either side of the stern, and the figurehead of Justice (dressed in apparel made by the San Daniele Monastery), were the work of the renowned Venetian sculptor Alessandro Vittoria, but research has revealed the names of the brothers Agostino and Marcantonio Vanini of Bassano who were praised as "authors of carvings of marvellous beauty". After more than a century of service, in 1719 a decision was made to demolish the ship.

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