Venice, Italy

Sta. Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy

The Salute, as it is often referred to, is one of the most familiar sights in Venice. Second only to St. Marks it is the best known of Venice’s many churches.

It stands on a narrow isthmus of land directly across the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s Square. This prominent position was not chosen by accident.

In 1629 a massive wave of plague swept through Venice and killed around 100,000 people – a third of the population. Repeated prayers did not seem to be helping and, remembering a previous occasion when Il Redentore Church was created, the Venetian Senate decreed (on October 22, 1630) that a new church should be built and dedicated to “Our Lady of Health” (perhaps more properly translated as “Our Lady of Deliverance”).

It was decided that the Senate would visit the church every year on 22 November and so a site close to St. Mark’s Square was selected. Even today on November 22nd representatives of the State of Venice cross the Grand Canal to the Salute.

A competition was held to design the new church and a student of the great Palladio, Baldassare Longhena, won it. Work began in 1632 and was finally completed in 1681, just one year before Longhena died.

With its great dome and elaborate frontage facing across the Grand Canal it soon came to the attention of the art fraternity and has featured prominently in works by Turner, Sargent, Guardi and most famously Canaletto.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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