Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy

The Basilica of St Mary of Health – Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, commonly known simply as the Salute, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica located in the Dorsoduro sestiere of the Italian city of Venice. It stands on a narrow finger of land between the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco making the church visible when entering the Piazza San Marco from the water. The Salute is part of the parish of the Gesuati and is the most recent of the so-called Plague-churches. In 1630 Venice experienced an unusually devastating outbreak of the plague. As a votive offering for the city’s deliverance from the pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Health. The church was designed in the then fashionable baroque style by Baldassare Longhena, a pupil of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, and construction began in 1631. Most of the objects of art housed in the church bear references to the Black Death. The dome of the Salutewas an important addition to the Venice skyline and soon became emblematic of the city, inspiring artists like Canaletto, J. M. W. Turner, John Singer Sargent and Francesco Guardi.

After the construction of the church, the annual Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin (November 21) saw a major procession of the city’s officials from San Marco to La Salute for a service of thanksgiving for deliverance from the plague. This involved crossing the Grand Canal on a specially constructed pontoon bridge. The Festa della Madonna della Salute is still a major event in Venice.

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