The origin of Redentore Festival

A view of the Church of the Redentore by Canaletto

Carnival is the most awaited Venetian festival during the winter, but in the summer the most awaited traditional festival is certainly the “Redentore”.

Not everyone knows that the Redentore Festival takes its name from the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, a votive building built in order to celebrate the liberation of Venice from a terrible plague, which in 1575 hit the entire city and for two years caused tens of thousands of victims. The infected people were moved to the two islands called “Lazzaretti” (Lazzaretto Nuovo and Lazzaretto Vecchio) but they were so many that the government decided to set up big boats near the islands as makeshift shelters.

When the epidemic disappeared the government asked the architect Andrea Palladio to design the Votive Temple of the “Redeemer” in the island of Giudecca. The construction began on May 1577 and after a few months they decided that the third Sunday of July would be the day for visiting the Church of the Redentore connected to Dorsoduro by a temporary bridge of boats.

After paying homage to the Redentore and after the commemoration of the disappearance of the plague, people used to linger on the banks to eat and celebrate the event but, as time passes, it became a tradition so popular that the celebration began the day before.

Today, as in the past, during the eve the banks of Sestiere Dorsoduro and Giudecca island are decorated with branches and illuminated by round paper lanterns (called “baloni”) and the channel is filled with boats to celebrate the festival with friends and loved ones all night long waiting for the ceremony the next day.

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