Like the “Festa del Redentore”, the “Festa della Salute” was introduced to commemorate the end of a great plague.
In this case, the plague had spread throughout Europe in the 17th Century and was memorably described by Alessandro Manzoni in his novel “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed). Over the course of a year and a half 46,000 people died in Venice, one quarter of the population.
In October 1630 the Doge Nicoletto Contarini and the Venetian Senate made a solemn vow in St. Mark’s Basilica to build a large new church in exchange for the Madonna’s intercession to free Venice of the plague.
This church – the Chiesa di S. Maria della Salute – was duly designed and built in 1631-1681 by Baldassarre Longhena and is now considered a masterpiece of Venetian Baroque architecture.
Every year, on 21st November, the "day of health", Venetians celebrate this anniversary with a procession before the high altar of this imposing church to light a candle and so perpetuate the city’s centuries-old gratitude to the Madonna.
On this day, Venetians traditionally eat the “castradina”, a highly flavoured mutton dish.
1600 - 1700 - - rev. 0.1.6