Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute

Venice was attacked many times and with disastrous outcomes by a terrible enemy: the terrifying "Black Death". The Plague arrived for the first time in Venice in 1347, on a ship coming from Caffa. It was a catastrophe of frightening proportions: more than 3/5 of the population died in the 18 successive months.

Later, the Black Death hit on other occasions, including the terrible epidemic of 1630, that killed a third of the population. It was on this occasion that the Venetians turned to the Virgin, promising to build a church in her honour, in exchange for salvation. And in 1631, the plague defeated, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute was erected in thanks to the Virgin, under the supervision of Baldassarre Longhena.

The Basilica, next to the Dogana (Customs-house), stands out on the Venetian skyline for its white colour and for its architectural forms, closer in style to the Classical Renaissance than to the typical Venetian style.

In memory of the salvation given to the Venetians, the sculpture of the Virgin with Child by the famous Flemish artist Le Court was put in place on the altar: on the one side, Venice is represented as a noble woman, kneeling in a suppliant pose, while on the other side, the Plauge is depicted as an old woman in flight, chased by an angel. The Dogana is located at the meeting point of two canals che Guidecca and Grand Canal. Built in the XV century and restored two hundred years later, it was the focal point for controlling and checking merchant ships passing through the island.

Its triangular form recalls the bow of a ship and, at its extremity, towards the lagoon, the statue of Fortune governs the world – it is depicted as a golden globe supported by two giants.

Created: 09 Aug 2013
Last update: 24 Jun 2023

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