The basilica of Santa Maria della Sslute was built as a sign of gratitude towards the Mother of Jesus after the deliverance of the city from the plague. In 1630 the black death took 40 000 casualties. The Senate promised to built a church in honor of the Virgin Mary if she would free Venice from the disease, which had already taken the lives of 1/3 of the population. When the epidemic had subsided the Senate kept its promise and commissioned the design of the future basilica to Baldassare Longhena, an unknown to this time architect whose work on the basilica put his name in the architectural history of Venice. The project was approved by the Senate under the condition that it would not cost too much. The construction began in 1631 but continued for 56 more years, until 1687, when Santa Maria della Salute was finally built. This happed five years after the death of its architect, who never saw his masterpiece completed.
Description: Santa Maria della Salute /picture source: Shutterstock.com/;
The basilica stands on 100 000 wooden pillars at the entrance of the Grand Canal. It is made of stone brought from the island of Istria and Venetian bricks, covered with marble, also known as “marmorino”. At the top of the pediment is placed a statue of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by saints, prophets and evangelists. The basilica has an octagonal shape. It is composed of eight chapels and two crown-shaped domes. Three of the alters are located to the right side of the main entrance and represent scenes of the life of Mary – the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple, the Assumption of Our Lady and the Nativity of Our Lady. To the ledt of the main entrance is the altar, made by Titian – “The Descent of the Holy Spirit”. Titian is one of the artists that contributed most to the pictorial patrimony of the church. He painted the ceiling with scenes depicting biblical figures such as David and Goliath, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac. Another important feature of the church is the high altar. Surrounded by ancient Roman columns, it sheltered the famous Byzantine icon of the “Madonna and the child” which was brought from Crete after its fall under the rule of the Ottomans. Over the icon there are sculptures by the Flemish artist Josse de Corte. This Baroque masterpiece shows the Venetians, asking Mary for salvation.
Description: the interior of Santa Maria della Salute /picture source: Shutterstock.com/;
On the 21st of November Venice celebrates the Festival of the Madonna della Salute. On this day a pontoon bridge is constructed over the Grand Canal connecting the region of San Mark with the basilica. The Venetians cross this bridge on their way to Santa Maria della Salute where they go to express their gratitude to the Mother of Jesus.
Address: Fondamenta Salute;
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