In going through recent photos I discovered I'd neglected to make a post about one of Venice's biggest festa's, the Festa della Madonna della Salute. Other cities hold festivals to celebrate the wine harvest, or mushrooms, or garlic. Venice holds festivals to remember the black plague. Every year in July we have the Festa del Redentore to commemorate the Plague of 1574, and in November we celebrate the end of the plague of 1630.
During each of these plagues, Venetians prayed to be spared from death and destruction. To keep their promise to God when the plagues ended, they built a church. In 1630 the called on the Madonna directly to end the plague, and their thanks resulted in the marvelous church of Madonna della Salute, in Dorsoduro.
Every year, on November 21, citizens make a pilgrimage to the church in order to give thanks to the Madonna for her intervention on Venice's behalf, and to pray for the health of their families. In the old days, people crossed a makeshift bridge across the Grand Canal made of boats tied together, to make their way into the church for mass, led by the Doge. Today, the city constructs a temporary votive pontoon bridge across the canal.
Festa della Salute is huge. People still make a mass pilgrimage, flooding the streets and over the pontoon bridge to buy candles, attend mass, and afterwards, buy goodies. It's an annual tradition that is absolutely essential to Venetian life.
What most people don't know about the Festa della Madonna della Salute is that the festa actually begins one week before November 21. Always on the Saturday before, the rowing community of Venice rows a giant candle down entire length of the Grand Canal to the La Salute Church, where they are met by the priests who will then bless the boats and the rowers of Venice with a special benediction.
Delivering the candle to La Salute
Priests on the steps of La Salute blessing the boats and rowers
Alza Remi (raise the oars), an honorary salute given by the rowers. The young men and women in blue jackets are from the Francesco Morosini Naval Military Academy in Venice.
The pontoon bridge during construction a few days before November 21.
On November 21, the calle next to the church of La Salute is lined with vendors stalls selling all sorts of goodies- nutella crepes, candies, marzipan, cheese, roasted nuts, just to name a few. And there are balloons. Tons of balloons. Take a stroll down the street with me, and I assure you, the temptation to stop and indulge will be strong. My weakness is always the cannoli booth!
Either before or after you hit all the goodies, you will stop to purchase candles at one of the numerous candle vendors, then make your way into the church to have your candle lit.
The main altar at La Salute church dressed out in velvets specially made by Bevilacqua.
For more information about the church of La Salute, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_Santa_Maria_della_Salute