Santa Maria della Salute – commonly known as Salute – is an outstanding baroque church which stands in a prominent position at the junction of the Gran Canal and Bacino di San Marco.
Its construction is related to a devastating epidemic of the plague in 1630 that had killed a third of Venice population. The Republic of Venice vowed to build a church and dedicate it to the Virgin of Health (Salute means both health and salvation).
The project was by architect Baldassare Longhena and its construction started in 1631 and the church was opened on November 21, 1687. This is what architect Longhena wrote about its church: “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. This church, having the mystery of its dedication, being dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, made me think, with what little talent God has bestowed upon me of building the church in the ... shape of a crown”.
The end of the epidemic is still celebrated today on November 21st with the erection of a floating bridge which links Salute to the opposite site of the Gran Canal, reminding the old days of the Republic, when the Doge and his procession paid a visit to the church by crossing the bridge on foot from Saint Mark’s square. Even today many Venetians pay a visit to the church on November 21 to ask the Virgin Mary to keep them in good health, believers or not. But the feast in not only a religious festival: all around the church a kind of fair is organized in a amazing mixture of religion, fun (especially for children) and food: on this day it is possible to taste pancakes, different kind of candies, and a special traditional dish of spicy meat called castradina.