The Flight of the Angel is an event usually held on Shrove Thursday of Carnival (grasso) this has its roots due to an event that happened in the mid 16th century. In those years, during various exihibitions, a Turkish acrobat did something that stupefied the Venetians.
With the only aid of a pole he walked on a rope from a boat tied in Riva degli Schiavoni to the top of St Mark’s Tower and then from the tower to the Doge’s Palace balcony, as a tribute to the doge.
The exihibition changed its name and became “The Flight of the Turk”, it has been held every year with various changes, first it was made only by professional acrobats and lately by common people that wanted to show their ability and bravery.
The exihibition name changed into “The Flight of the Angel” when for the first time an acrobat dressed with angel wings tied to a rope was let down the tower, at the end of the descent the doge himself gave the angel impersonator a gift.
The event changed its name again into “Volo della Colombina” (“The Flight of the dove”) starting from 1759. In that year the acrobat dressed as the angel fell down over the horrified crowd.
Since then a wooden dove substitute the men.
After the fall of the Republic the event was banned (as many other traditions) until recent times.
Starting from 2001 “The flight of the Dove” become again “The Flight of the Angel” with the reintroduction of a real person instead of the wooden dove, staging the old ritual of the homage of the sceptre to the Doge. This announced the beginning of the Carnival of Venice with a triumph of confetti and coloured air balloons. The event is now held on the week-end previous to Shrove Thursday and marks the beginning of the festivities.