Every year, on November 21, takes place in Venice a holiday less known by tourists, dedicated especially to the locals, called Festa della Madonna della Salute or, shorter, Festa della Salute.
The celebration has a strong religious character, taking the form of a pilgrimage that starts from San Marco, from the Church of Santa Maria del Giglio, and ends in Dorsoduro, at the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, crossing the Grand Canal on a votive bridge specially built on boats for this occasion.
Like many other local holidays, Festa della Salute commemorates a painful moment in Venice’s history – the epidemic from 1630-1631. The disease had been brought from Mantova in June, by some ambassadors sent to ask for help, and spread rapidly throughout the city, killing over 47,000 people in about a year.
In the autumn of 1630, scared by the number of deaths and by the inefficiency of medical methods attempted, the Venetians returned to faith. The Venetian Republic organized a three-day procession involving more than 10,000 people, during which Nicolò Contarini, the Doge of those times, invoked the help of the Virgin Mary and publicly promised to raise a church called Salute, if the city gets rid of the plague.
Venice finally escaped the plague, but the Doge did not see the church built, because he was killed by the disease, along with part of his family, on April 1631.
November 21, 1687, is the date when the Church of Santa Maria della Salute was consecrated, the date celebrated today by Festa della Salute. The event, in its current form, brings joy first to the children, the neighborhood of the church being occupied by stands where toys, sweets and balloons are sold.
FESTA DELLA SALUTE 2018 will take place on November 21, with Holy Masses held in the Church of Santa Maria della Salute at every hour, from 6.00 am to 8.00 pm. At 10.00 am, the Mass will be celebrated by Patriarch Msgr. Francesco Moraglia and, in the evening, from 10.00 pm, will be held the Celebration of Compline (the evening prayer).