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The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is one of Venice’s most recognizable buildings. Guarding the entrance to the Grand Canal, this 17th-Century domed church was commissioned by Venice’s plague survivors as thanks for salvation. The church is said to have mystical curative properties.
In 1630, Venice experienced an unusually devastating outbreak of the plague killing over 80,000 Venetians. As an offering for the city’s deliverance from the disease, the Senate promised to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Health (or in Italian: Salute). Before the church could even be started, at least 100,000 pylons had to be driven deep into the mud to shore up the tip of Dorsoduro which is where the church is located. The church was designed in the baroque style by Baldassare Longhena. Construction began in 1631. Most of the objects of art housed in the church have references to the “Black Death”.
The Senate also commited to visit the church each year. Every year on November 21 the “Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin”, known as the Festa della Madonna della Salute, the city’s officials parade from San Marco to the Salute for a service in gratitude for deliverance from the plague is celebrated. This involved crossing the Grand Canal on a specially constructed floating bridge and is still a major event in Venice.