Every November 21st Venetian people celebrate the Madonna della Salute Festival (called also “Salute Festival”, in Italian “Salute” means “Health”).
Among the Venetian festivities the Festa della Salute is probably the less tourist but it is one of the closest to Venetians hearts.
Like the Redentore Festival that takes place in July, it commemorates the freedom of the city from the pestilence, which lasted for two years from the 1630 to the 1631 and killed about 100.000 Venetians.
At that time Venice, like many European cities, was under siege from the plague: the Doge, the city’s president, and most of his family perished, medicines and other treatments were not able to stem the epidemic and so Venetians turned to their religion. A procession was organized, people walked incessantly around Piazza San Marco for 3 days and nights with torches and votive statues and the new Doge asking for the Virgin Mary’s divine intercession took a vow: if the city escaped total devastation, a temple dedicated to the Madonna would be constructed.
Almost immediately plague deaths started to reduce and Venice was finally declared plague-free in late 1631.
The edifice, made by Baldassare Longhena, was completed in about twenty years, and it became an exemplary model of Baroque architecture studied and imitated all over Europe. The church, one of the largest Basilica in Venice, was called the Salute Church.
Even today, few Venetians miss the opportunity to visit the Church on November 21st, to take part to the procession leaving from San Marco Square and to walk on the pontoon bridge built on this occasion across the Grand Canal from Campo Santa Maria del Giglio to La Salute.
The festival is not only the occasion to commemorate who lost their lives because the plague but also to taste the various special foods eaten only during the week of the festival. One of the main customs is to eat a special soup known as “Castradina”, which is made from cabbage, dried spiced mutton and rosemary.
See you there!