Salute or Deliverance

Another unmistakable landmark site of Venice is Santa Maria della Salute (Saint Mary of Health), commonly known simply as the Salute.

One cannot miss it with the grand dome and the fancy spiral scrolls with statues of top which act as buttresses for the dome. It stands on the narrow finger of Punta della Dogana, between the Canal Grande and the Giudecca Canal

The church is visible when entering Piazza San Marco from the water, or from the Accademia Bridge. It is in fact photographed quite a lot from that point of view.

To get there and visit the church it is possible by crossing the Accademia Bridge and walking towards the Guggenheim Museum. It is a lovely walk, less croweded with numerous art stores, all the way enjoying some nice views of the Canal Grande Palazzi.

The reason for this church was as an ex voto to the Madonna by the Venetians for the liberation from the plague that between 1630 and 1631 decimated the population.

In 1630, Venice experienced an unusually devastating outbreak of the plague. The plague was brought by an ambassador of the Duke of Mantua Carlo I Gonzaga Nevers. 

On October of that year in Piazza San Marco the Doge Nicolò Contarini (the one of the Scala Contarini del Bovolo), the clergy and the people gathered to pray.  When the plague ended 80,000 Venetians had died, including the Doge himself.

The church was designed in the fashionable baroque style by Baldassarre Longhena, who studied under the architect Vincenzo Scamozzi. Construction began in 1631. Most of the objects of art housed in the church bear references to the Black Death.  

Interior

The spacious, centralized interior is well lit by the windows of the six side chapels and by the large windows of the drum of the dome. The light emphasizes the marbled floor.

The presbytery and the main altar designed by Longhena himself dominate everything. The sculptural group on the altar represents a Madonna with child, representing the Health that defends Venice from the plague. Several works by Titian and Tintoretto can be admired in the interior.

The dome of the Salute was an important addition to the Venice skyline and soon became emblematic of the city, inspiring artists like Canaletto, J. M. W. Turner, John Singer Sargent, and the Venetian artist Francesco Guardi.

Celebrations

For more than three centuries, every year on November 21, the city pilgrimage to the Madonna della Salute has been renewed, led by the authorities of the city. The Municipality of Venice also prepares the traditional votive bridge that allows the faithful to cross the Grand Canal from Santa Maria del Giglio.

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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