Santa Maria della Salute

by Annie

smariasalute1The beautiful church of Santa Maria della Salute owes its origin to a dreadful event: the plague of Venice in 1630-31. To stop the scourge the Venetians invoked divine intervention, vowing to build a church to honor the Virgin Mary in exchange for an end to their troubles. It worked, and the promised church, designed by the young architect Baldassare Longhena, was completed in 1682.

smariasalute2The grateful Venetians still celebrate the occasion by paying their respects there on November 21st of each year. (Coming soon!)

smariasalute3It is one of the town’s most heartfelt celebrations, and thousands of people make pilgrimages across a specially (and temporarily) set up pontoon bridge, buying candles at booths placed in the square outside the church.

smariasalute4These are lit inside and deposited, together with prayers for the salute (good health) of loved ones, in large trays filled with sand set around inside the church.

The high point of the festivities is the arrival of the Patriarch (bishop) of Venice leading a colorful procession of priests, cardinals and carabinieri to the church, where he will give a special thanksgiving homily.

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