In the 17th century, wide parts of Europe were afflicted by the pest and due to numerous conflicts and wars it’s not surprising that the black death soon reached Venice too.
The sick bays were cram-full and there wasn’t even enough manpower to transport the contaminated citizens to the provided facilities. The numerous victims of black death were even brought out of house and „deposited“ in the calli (just to be left there) by their despaired relatives. Only in the month of November the Republic counted 11.966 victims.
The patriarch and the Republic of Venice organized public processions to invoke the mercy of the Holy Virgin, but this gatherings only worsened the situation and the disease spread even quicker than before till the Senate of the Republic (just like in 1587; construction of the Redentore Church) committed itself – in case the pest would finish as soon as possible – to built a new church in the honor of the Holy Virgin Mary and determined that the Doge should, every year in the context of an official ceremony and as a sign of never finishing gratitude, visit this church.
Short time after this promise the black death really started to cease and the construction works for the new Church began. The project (designed by Baldassare Longhena and finished in 1687) cost the Republic 400.000 ducats and nearly 1.000.000 piles for the pile structure. (A huge amount of money, sure, but the church can still be seen in all it’s splendour and more than 300 years after it’s construction next to the Dogana and St Marc’s Square … THAT’S what I call quality work!)
Today, the Venetian citizens still make a pilgrimage (on the 21st of November) to the Salute, passing a bridge that overstretches only on this day the Canal Grande, to light a candle for the Holy Virgin and to wish for health.
A typical dish that is served this very day is the castradina, made of mutton.
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