The feast of the Salute - 21st November and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.
In 1630 a plague broke out in the city. It was devasting and very contagious. It was said to have started with a carpenter who lived nearby and went to work at San Clemente, an island in the lagoon. The ambassador of the duke of Mantua, who had fallen ill, was kept on the island in isolation. Soon the disease spread to Venice killing a great many people. In October 1630, doge Nicolò Contarini (1630-1631) made a vow to the Madonna: if the plague stopped, he would build a magnificent church dedicated to her. Shortly afterwards, the epidemic died down.
It was decided that the sanctuary should be placed in one of the most pretigious areas of the city, right in front of the basin of St. Mark. On 1 April 1631, doge Contarini laid the foundation stone and, to celebrate the occasion, coins were monted with the image of the doge (who died the following day!) and these were put in a hole in the centre of the curch. Hovewer the shape of the curch had not been decided yet. Something unique was needed, a building no one had ever seen before, and with lots of light. A competition was held.
The design that won was by a young architect called Baldassarre Longhena (1598-1682) and it was decidedly original in comparison with the traditional Venetian churches.
The exterior is white, in Istrian stone and it is covered by a dome. The entrance door, framed by four columns, is enormous and it is opened only on November 21st, the feast day of the Madonna della Salute.
Over a million stakes were used for the foundation of the curch! In 1687 it finally opened and doge Marcantonio Giustinian promised that in future the doge in office and his retinue would make an official visit to the curch on NOvember 21st each year, crossing the Grand Canal on a bridge made of boats. The feast of the Salute is still one of the most important appointments on the calendar in Venice!
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