The Redentore (the Redeemer) is one of the most famous Venetian traditional festivals. The event commemorates the end of the terrible plague that struck the city in 1575 and after two years had caused the death of 50,000 people, more than a third of the population at that time.
In September of 1576, under the doge Alvise Mocenigo, the Senate decreed the construction of a votive temple dedicated to the Holy Redeemer, as a votive offering with the hope to free the city from the terrible disease. So at the end of the plague, in May 1577, Andrea Palladio, the official architect of the Republic, laid the first stone for the construction of the church. The austerity of the project had been imposed by the Capuchin friars, who still live in the adjoining convent and Palladio designed a single nave church with three chapels on either side, with a facade inspired by the Pantheon of Rome.
In July of the same year it was decided to celebrate the first Redentore festival, to commemorate the end of the terrible plague; since that year a temporary bridge, floating on pontoons, is erected over the Giudecca Canal between the Zattere and Redentore’s Church. A long procession with the doge, the membership of Art and Crafts guilds, the religious brotherhoods and the people began the celebrations. Today the religious celebrations are held every year on the third Sunday of July, while the night before there is a great party with feasting followed by night-time fireworks. On Saturday morning the inhabitants of Giudecca’s island prepare an endless table along the Fondamenta della Giudecca, to spend the evening all together, while a large group of traditional boats meets in front of San Marco’s square, waiting for the grand spectacular fireworks show, which magically illuminates the city.
The Redentore festival is one of the most awaited events of the year, with a wide participation of the Venetians, which also attracts a large audience from all over the world.