Europe was afflicted more than 200 years by the plague when the Senat decided on the 8th September 1576 for the first time in the history of the city to swear an oath: A temple dedicated to Jesus Christ should be erected on the island Giudecca once the plague ceases.
But that’s not all: Furthermore, every year a procession to this very same church should be organized to remember the end oft he pandemic and the heavenly help!
After two years of death and despair, 50.000 deaths (Venice at this time had about 180.000 citizens) the city was declared plague free on the third Sunday of July 1577 (just like white Covid areas today in Italy).
The construction of the church
The project for the construction of the church was entrusted to Andrea Palladio one of star architects of that time who had coined the facade of the church San Giorgio Maggiore and San Francesco della Vigna.
Since 1577, nearly 500 years, the liberation of the city by the plague – not the first epidemic, but one of the worst in the history of the city (!) – is celebrated each and every year on the third Sunday of July. You can find more info here in this blog post.
But why was the island Giudecca chosen for this votive temple?
In 1577 a flyer circulated talking about the existence of a well in the convent of Santa Croce on the island Giudecca and praising its miraculous waters: In June 1464 a young man, dressed in black velvet and armed with a sword, had appeared at this very same well and announced the end of the plague.
Now the citizens had been frightened since months, the dead accumulated on the streets, the quarantine islands were cram-full. In short: The situation was hopeless. But this flyer brought some hope in the lives of the citizens that started to pilgrimage to the island of Giudecca. For this reason the priest of the church Sant’Eufemia (on Giudecca) decided to collocate a painting of Saint Sebastian (who is one of the saints prayed to in order to be protected by the plague) in the miraculous well.
The Senat promoted these pilgrimages of the citizens and thus decided to use the very same place for the construction of the votive temple.