Every 21st Nov, Venice celebrates Madonna della Salute Festa. This day has a very strong religious meaning for the Venetians. Many come to pray for better health and miracles and give thanks. A temporary floating bridge is built connecting San Moise and Santa Maria del Giglio to allow worshippers to cross easily for prayers. The church in honour is the Salute church on Dorsudoro.
In 1630, the plague was killing almost the entire population of Venice – Doge Nicolo Contarini decided to pray for deliverance and made a public vow to erect a church called Salute if the plague was stopped. Gradually in the following weeks, there were less and less plague victims. A church was commissioned to be built and Baldassarre Longhena won the project out of the 11 architects that took part in the competition. The church is a massive octagonal basilica with elements of Venetian Byzantine architecture with inspiration of Rome’s St. Peter’s church.
On this day, a special dish is made called ‘castradina’ – a mutton-based soup with cabbage, cooked for many days. The eve of the day and the day itself, the Salute church is filled with people. There are stalls erected selling candles for the prayers and behind the church especially for the children you will find sweet stands – selling fritelles, sweets of all kinds, torrone, balloons, sugared nuts, candy floss – a real feast! See below.
A ‘dolci’ stall behind Salute church
Fritelle lady – fried flat breads tossed in sugar or filled with Nutella. Kids and their candy floss and the wonderful selection of colourful balloons!