Redentore is the celebration most loved by Venetians, to remind the end of the black plague in 1577, one of the most disastrous plagues in Venice history, still commemorated today with “the famous night of fireworks”, on the 3rd Saturday of July. Redentore is a popular festival that combines the sacred and profane, as Venetian celebrations often do.
The plague is believed to have been brought in the city by flea-infested mice carried back from the Orient by Venetian trading ships. It is out of doubt that the cats, imported with urgency from Syria (“soriani” cats), contributed in a certain measure to defeat the plague, and became those beloved comrades of the streets and the houses of Venice, and thus they remained until 1990, when the foulness of the modern humans decided their extermination, sterilizing most of the males. But in Venetian tradition the decisive factor of salvation was, like later and before occurred, the practice of sincere public devotions pursued by almost all of the surviving. These devotions culminated in the solemn vote, made by the Doge in the name of the city, to build a marvellous temple if the Serenissima would escape the annihilation; enough to mention that the plague killed over 50.000 inhabitants, amongst which the famous painter Tiziano Vecellio.
After the plague diminished , therefore, the Serenissima maintained the vote of the Venetians, commissioning the architect Andrea Palladio to project and build a majestic church at the Giudecca.
The first stone of the great temple was laid under “proto” (supervisor) Antonio da Ponte, while a provisory wooden church was erected in the 3rd Sunday of July. A long floating walkway uniting San Marco Square and the Giudecca island was also built on hundreds of pontoons.Over this walkway, as a sign of humility and gratefulness, the “Doge” Sebastiano Venier walked, leading the Crafts, the Religious Confraternities and the survived people in procession towards the Tabernacle.
The work was solicitously completed, and since four centuries the classic proportions of the Redeemer´s Church remind inhabitants and visitors of the terrible suffering and danger occurred to the “Serenissima” in 16th Century. Until today, every year for the Festival an army barge bridge is built between the Zattere and the Giudecca.
On the 3rd weekend in July, religious and political authorities, inhabitants and guests walk on this passageway to reach by foot, from the historical centre of Venice, the temple dedicated to Christ the Redeemer on the island of Giudecca. For the “famous night of fireworks”, between the 3rd Saturday of July and the Sunday after, thousands of Venetians and visitors come to celebrate, in the S. Mark´s basin swarming with boats crowded with people who bring typical culinary delights. On Saturday morning, people engage in the organisation and preparation for the Redentore Festival. Food is cooked for everybody; candle-balloons, leafy branches and other trinket are hanged on the boats, terraces and rooftop loggias. As soon as they are ready, those on the boats start looking for the best places in St. Mark´s Basin. After supper with relatives and friends under the showy ornamentation, everybody waits for the great firework show (“ i foghi”) to begin, usually around 23:00.
From eleven to midnight, after the gastronomical moment, the firework show starts on the most beautiful stage ever realized by man. There is no other place on the world, where the light of fireworks may enlighten with its colours a mirror of water like that of the St. Mark’s Basin, with the reflection of the Ducal Palace, St. George, the Columns of Mark and Todaro.
The extraordinariness of the pyrotechnics is meant to keep the spectator in doubt as to where to look, at the display in the sky or to the unique images of a fairy town redrawn by sparkles in the water.
Like all the popular festivals, the traditional activities of the Redentore enriched across centuries of side events: traditional became the street market and the charity raffle run in the church´s patronage. A very combative regatta in Venetian rowing style is raced Sunday morning along the Giudecca Canal, for at least one day left resting from the overused wave motion of most engine boats.
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