The third weekend of July is the moment in which one of the most beloved local festivals comes celebrated: La Festa del Redentore.
Known today as a unique opportunity to witness impressive and extensive fireworks over the outstanding Bacino di San Marco, the “festa”, a favorite of the Venetians of all ages, is the fruit of a long tradition.
Both a religious and popular festival, la Festa del Redentore commemorates the end of the devastating plague of 1575-1577, which killed, in the span of 2 years, more than 50000 Venetians, within which the great painter Tiziano Vecellio. Commissioned by the Doge Alvise I Mocenigo, the architect Andrea Palladio built the majestuous Church of the Redentore on the island of the Giudecca, as a Thanksgiving gift for the end of the epidemic.
The church was consecrated in 1592, but it is immediately after the laying of the foundation stones that a temporary wooden church was built, along with a temporary bridge of barges linking the church to Venice, in order to let the Doge Sebastian Venier walk in procession until the place of worship. Since that day, the Doge repeated the procession every year and the pilgrimage became a tradition still respected today, almost 500 years later, on the third Sunday of July.
More than just a religious celebration, the Festa del Redentore is also a moment of intense gathering for the locals. The day before the pilgrimage and after due preparations, Venetians meet in the evening to share food and drinks while waiting for the fireworks. Most of the people either chose to dine on long tables lined up on the “rive” at the Giudecca, or on their boats moored in the Saint Mark Basin and decorated for the occasion with balloons and garlands.
Redentore is a moment of conviviality and sharing, and it is not rare to see Venetians passing each other food and drinks from one boat to the other. All through the evening, Saint Mark’s basin is filled up with boats of all kinds, the boats of the Venetian but also, since a few years, more and more commercial boats taking advantage of the tourists’ curiosity and the growing popularity of this evening outside of Venice. When the night is finally dark, all eyes turn to the sky, waiting for the 45 min long fireworks to start. By midnight the show is over, and everybody leaves the jammed Bacino to go back home or head over to the Lido where the youngsters go wait for dawn.
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