Huge domed Church dedicated to St. Mary.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by garymarsh6 on September 21, 2012

Santa Maria della Salute.

Santa Maria Della Salute is the massive white double domed building you can see right at the end of the Grand Canal in Venice which was built by the people of Venice to appease God for stopping the plague which claimed over a third of the population of Venice. Over 46,000 people died in Venice and a further 94,000 from the surrounding areas.

The senate met and decreed that should the plague stop then they would build a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. They would also mark in honour by holding a parade from St. Marks Square each year on the eve of the feast of the blessed Virgin on the 21st of November and it is still held to this day every November. A temporary bridge is erected although originally it was built on pontoons and the parade would march over to the Salute. Finally the plague subsided and a competition was arranged to design and build the new Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Out of 11 contestants only 2 of them were picked in the end it was won by an architect Baldassare Longhena who was only 26 years old at the time.

Work started on the building in 1631 and was finally finished in 1687. The building is built on 100,000 wooden pylons that were forced into the ground. The church is cavernous with a massive interior and is supposed to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary’s womb. It was built of brick and covered in Marmorino which is a type of marble dust mixed with lime and is known as Venetian plaster and gives the appearance of it being completely white to represent purity of the Virgin.

The building itself is built in an octagonal shape having eight sides there are six side chapels with the central high altar opposite the massive doors that lead from the steps of the Grand Canal. It has two domes one of which is massive and the second is much smaller. There are statues on the outside of the Building and on the inside of the dome.

I had read about La Salute as it is affectionally called and really wanted to visit on this trip to Venice. The Venetians hold it with much esteem. When coming back from Murano instead of being dropped off at St. Marks Square I mentioned to my friends that we should ask to be dropped there instead. My friend asked the water Taxi man to take us to Saint Maria di Sante…. The taxi man looked puzzled and said he had never heard of the place but when I corrected it to Santa Maria Della Salute he understood immediately and then went on to tell us it was very very beautiful not only on the outside but also inside too.

We pulled up beside the Church and got out of the boat and stood for a while admiring the outside. It is really quite a beautiful church from the outside however it was closed for lunch from Midday to 2PM so we wandered around the side streets and along the canals to find somewhere to have a drink. We eventually found our way back to the Church and mounted the steps to the door. The entrance was the side door and not the main entrance at the front. Apparently this front door is only opened on special occasions such as the parade and if a VIP is visiting the church and they are delivered to the landing stage right in front of it.

The inside of the church is in fact quite plain although in each of the side chapels and the high altar there are paintings by such artists as Tintoretto and Titian. The open hall is quite vast with tiled and patterned flooring that covers the whole of the ground floor. When walking around the perimeter of the Church you can feel the unevenness of the flooring. Looking high above your head the dome is quite plain and white with small windows in the lower section of the dome. There are several stone statues of Saints around the base of the dome.

The high altar also has two side chapels beside it. It is quite ornate. Hanging from the centre of the dome is a large lantern which is lit. It has red glass holding candle lights in it.
Whilst it is architecturally interesting it is not the most ornate church I have visited. It has a massive central area in the middle and apparently gets quite packed out on feast days especially on the 21st of November.

Would I recommend a visit here?

Yes I would as it is quite beautiful. All you need to do is take a Traghetto across the Grand Canal and turn left once you have walked down the alley way and you will eventually come to the Church. There is no entrance fee but you are welcome to make a donation for its upkeep.

Santa Maria della Salute.
Basilica of St. Mary/Santa Maria della Salute
Between Grand Canal and Bacino di San Marco
Venice, Italy, 30124
+39 0415225558

© LP 2000-2009