The Salute’s Church and its Feast
The Festa della Salute is a religious yearly recurrence which takes place on November 21 and evokes the most popular religious sentiment.
The holiday is, like the Redentore, in memory of bout of pestilence, which lasted for two years from 1630-31, and the subsequent vow by the Doge to obtain the intercession of the Virgin Mary: now as then, on November 21, thousands of people cross the votive bridge and reach the majestic Salute Church to render thanks and ask the Virgin Mary to keep them in good health.
The bubonic plague is the same “Black Death” described by Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed: was so violent that within a few weeks the entire city was decimated, with heavy casualties among the inhabitants, including the Doge NicolòContarini and the Prelate Giovanni Tiepolo.
At the height of the epidemic the Government of the Republic decided to organize a procession of prayer to the Virgin Mary, along three days and three nights. On October 22 1630, the Doge made a solemn vow to build a great church if the city had lived through it the epidemic.
A few weeks after the procession, in November 1631, the epidemic miraculously stopped, the government settled then to repeat the procession annually and, after identifying the Dogana da Mar as the ideal place for the pilgrimage, he held a competition for the construction of a new church. The competition was won by BaldassareLonghena with his project of a baroque structure with an octagonal plan and a bog dome: the current church of Santa Maria della Salute, consecrated on November 21 1687.
A curiosity: on the day of the Madonna della Salute it is customary to eat the castradina, a mutton-based, stewed in cabbage,traditional dish.