The beautiful Church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, actually a Basilica, is an outstanding building facing the Grand Canal.

Even if it's pretty recent and it has less than 400 years of history, it is one of the greatest symbols of Venice. Its great dome, in fact, is so distinguishing that it comes out whenever you take a panoramic picture of the city. It's also clearly visible from San Marco Square.

Anyway, besides its beauty, it is also the center of a great pilgrimage, which takes place every year on November 21st: the Feast of the Madonna della Salute.

Would you like to explore more about the famous Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute?

The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute: history of the church facing the Grand Canal

santa maria della salute basilica venice (Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash)

During the great plague that took place in 1630, so many Venetians died. It killed almost a third of the local population.

That's why the Venetian Senate, together with the Doge Nicolò Contarini decided to make a vow.

They authorized the building of the new church of Santa Maria della Salute and to dedicate it to the Virgin Mary of Health in exchange for her protection from the disease.

It was also decided to organize, year after year, a great pilgrimage to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. That was the beginning of the Feast of della Salute, celebrated on November 21st.

The building of the Church: why it stands next to the Punta della Dogana

the view of santa maria della salute next to Punta della Dogana (Karen Uppal on Unsplash)
The Church stands next to Punta della Dogana

As you know, the Basilica is clearly visible from Piazza San Marco and it is located next to the Dogana da Mar, the symbol of the maritime power of the Serenissima.

The location was chosen among many others (they were 8) because it was very close to San Marco. Furthermore, the location of Dogana da Mar is actually symbolic and strategic. However, the Senate decided not to build the Basilica in place of the Dogana, which was actually important, but just next to it.

Projecting the Church of Santa Maria della Salute: the young architect Baldassare Longhena

basilica della salute venice (Antônia Felipe on Unsplash)
View of the Basilica from Ponte dell'Accademia

Many architects showed their projects to build the new church. The chosen one was made by Baldassare Longhena who designed the new building resembling the Churches of Redentore and San Giorgio Maggiore.

He wrote:

I have created a church in the form of a rotunda, a work of new invention, not built in Venice, a work very worthy and desired by many.

That's why the Church reminds of Palladian classicism.

The Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute was finally completed in 1681, just one year before its architect's death.

Exploring the Church of Santa Maria della Salute: the exteriors

basilica's exterior by night ( Jonathan Ford on Unsplash)

The Basilica della Salute is an octagonal church with two domes and bell towers. It was built in white Istrian stone and bricks covered by marble dust.

On the top of the church there's the statue of the Virgin Mary, to whom the building is dedicated.

The facade is highly decorated by the statues of the four evangelists, but also Saint George, Saint Theodore, the Prophets.

The interior of the Basilica della Salute

If your eyes are captured by the magnificence of the exterior, when you come inside the church, the interior will also amaze you.

The interior, as you can imagine, is octagonal with 8 small chapels.

There are also three altars (right of the main entrance) which are enriched by scenes of the life of the Virgin.

To the left of the main entrance, the third altar shows The Descent of the Holy Ghost by Titian.

The main altar, however, is Baroque style and was designed by the architect Longhena. It shows a statuary group depicting the central theme of the church: The Queen of Heaven expelling the Plague, made by Josse de Corte, a Flemish sculptor.

The masterpieces displayed in the Sacristy of Madonna della Salute

In the Sacristy there are some works of art, made by the greatest artists of the time.

There's the Marriage at Cana by Tintoretto, for example, but also Saint Mark Enthroned by Titian and many other great paintings, as well as ceiling paintings, that embellish the basilica's interior.

How to visit the Church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice

The Church is open to visit almost any day. The Sacristy, however, doesn't follow the opening times of the Basilica, so it's better to check in advance in case you want to visit its splendid works of art.

Furthermore, you can also buy the tickets in advance to have access to the Dome, the Museum, the Sacristy and to the panoramic terrace.

Remember also that from November 18th to November 22nd, Venice celebrates the Feast della Salute!

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