The Redeemer's Feast is one of our favorites and it is definitely one of the most truly felt in Venice, regardless of one’s religious feelings.
In 1576 Venice suffered from a terrible epidemic of plague, during which thousands and thousands people died.
The Government of the Venetian Republic then decided to build a votive church and to dedicate it to the Holy Redeemer as soon as the plague would end.
The next year, once the calamity was over, a new church was started, on the Giudecca island.
The architect that was asked to provide the Republic with the project was the great Andrea Palladio, who had already given proof of his incredible skills in all the religious structures he had built in town, in particular with the magnificent St. George’s church.
It took decades to finish this building, both in the architectural part and in the internal decoration. The result, as we can still admire, is spectacular.
The Redeemer’s Church, interior
Francesco Bassano, Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1584-1588, Church of the Redeemer
Right after the end of the epidemic it was also decided to build every year, on the third Sunday of July, a votive pontoon to connect one bank of the Giudecca Canal to the opposite one. This way the entire population could cross the canal on foot on a pilgrimage to the Redeemer’s Church, in order to give thanks to Jesus Christ for the end of the plague.
Beppe Ciardi, The Redemer Votive Pontoon, 1910, private collection
Still nowadays this ancient tradition is renovated every year.
The votive pontoon today
Sunday is then dedicated to the religious aspect of the feast. On the previous Saturday, instead, the feast is much more worldly. The Venetians decorate their boats with lanterns, garlands of flowers, colorful festoons. They take with them food, goodies, beverages and they leave on their boats to reach a spot in St. Mark’s Basin, in order to spend the evening out on the water.
Boats in St. Mark’s Basin on the Redeemer’s Feast, Vesta Archive 2016
It is really great to spend the entire evening on a boat on this occasion. But the three of us have decided to organize a more intimate evening, with a delicious dinner on Marialaura’s altana, the garden on the rooftop. Venetian altanas, in the evening, are somehow magical places: you can always feel a pleasant light breeze which carries away the heat and the humidity that are common during the day in July. Geraniums keep mosquitoes away. The intense and pleasant smell of flowers and plants is even more penetrating at the end of the day.
Marialaura has prepared the typical dish for this occasion: sarde in saor, that is marinated sardines, which preparation requires three days of cooking and patience.
Sarde in Saor
And there is much more on the table: vegetables, fresh fruit, cicheti (special Venetian appetizers) of all sorts. Monica of course has brought her delicious Tiramisù, whereas Cinzia has come with great appetite to eat good stuff and with the desire of spending a cheerful evening!
View from the Altana
We chat a lot, laugh, tell funny stories, sipping some Bellini or some Prosecco.
View from the Altana, sunset
We do not even notice that it is almost midnight! It is the magical moment that everybody is waiting for: the time of fireworks! It is a marvelous show. Pyrotechnic games of different kinds, so very colorful, burst in the air and reflect on the façades of the Venetian palazzos and on the surface of the Lagoon: all the elements of the city, earth, air and water, are involved in creating such a magical atmosphere.
We admire ecstatically all this beauty. Marialaura gently caresses her beautiful cat, Didi, who is actually quite worried because of the noise, but in his owner’s arms he calms down and purrs.
The fireworks end… it is about time for us to say goodbye. We might try on Sunday morning to cross the votive pontoon, and it is better to go to sleep. It has been a pleasant evening, indeed…
We bet that now you all would like to spend the Redeemer's evening on Marialaura's altana… Well, we cannot promise you that, but we can give you some suggestions on how to spend your evenings, on feast or on week days, in our wonderful city.
We are already waiting for you!