Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Festa del Redentore - Feast of the Redeemer



(Venice, Italy) This past weekend, July 17th and 18th, we celebrated Venice's greatest festival, the Feast of the Redeemer (that image you see was taken from the Comune di Venezia's site). I have written about this holiday before, back on July 19, 2008:

The Church of Redentore was built in honor of Christ the Redeemer to save Venice from the plague, which wiped out ONE THIRD of the population, including Titian himself. Now, what, exactly, were the sins from which the Venetians thought they needed redemption? One was that they did a lot of trading with the Muslim countries. (I can think of several others:) The Venetians had tried everything, and as we know, when all else fails, the only thing left to do is to pray. In any event, it WORKED! The end of the plague on July 13,1577 is what we are celebrating tonight with what is usually the best fireworks in the entire world exploding over the lagoon. Venetians from all over the Veneto arrive in their boats to watch the show. The fondamenta on the Giudecca is lined with tables and Venetians eating traditional food. Terraces and balconies are filled with revelers. The Lido has their own party going on over there. It's a big Venetian party, and deserves its own blog, which perhaps I will give it in the future.


Click here to read the entire post:
http://venetiancat.blogspot.com/2008/07/500-years-of-andrea-palladio-palladian.html

Well, the future is now:) I have seen Redentore every year for the past eleven years from many different angles and venues -- in boats, on rooftops, terraces and balconies, at Cipriani's, on the island of San Giorgio -- this year I walked across the floating bridge that links Venice proper to the island of Giudecca where the Church of Redentore is located FIVE times!

More background about the origins of the festival:


The Plague of 1576 is the plague that inspired one of Venice's most beloved holidays and famous churches -- Redentore. From the Comune's website:


The plague In the three years between 1575 and 1577 the Serenissima was tormented by the plague: aided by the high density of the population, the disease spread through the city, causing terrible losses. Almost 50,000 died, which was more than a third of the city's inhabitants.


That image you see of the man with a hat and a beak and a wand is a plague doctor. The beak was stuffed with medicinal herbs, etc. to keep the doctor from catching the plague.


The vow On September 4, 1576, the Senate decided that the Doge should announce the vow to erect a church dedicated to the Redentore (Redeemer), in return for help in ending the plague.


The end of the plague On July 13, 1577, the plague was declared definitively over and it was decided that the city's liberation from the terrible disease should be celebrated on the third Sunday in July.


Ah, those were the days! When doctors ran around dressed as birds with long beaks, and gravediggers smashed bricks into the mouths of female vampires to stop them from munching on dead plague victims. Just think: we still celebrate the Redentore holiday today!

Click here to read the entire post:

So, the Venetian Senate vowed on September 4, 1576, in the midst of the plague, to build a church. On May 3, 1577, just eight months later, the cornerstone was laid. Miraculously, the plague was declared officially over two months after that, on July 13, 1577. The church was then consecrated only 15 years later in 1592, and put in the care of the Capuchin order of friars, who protect the Church of Redentore to this day.
From Wikipedia:

Il Redentore was built as a votive church in thanksgiving for deliverance from a major outbreak of the plague that decimated Venice between 1575 and 1576, in which some 46,000 people (25-30 per cent of the population) died.[1] The Senate of the Republic of Venice commissioned the architect Andrea Palladio to design the votive church.[2]. Though the Senate wished the Church to be square plan, Palladio designed a single nave church with three chapels on either side. Its prominent position on the Canale della Giudecca gave Palladio the opportunity to design a facade inspired by the Parthenon of Athens and enhanced by being placed on a wide plinth. 15 steps were required to reach the church's entrance, a direct reference to the Temple of Jerusalem and complicit with Palladio's own requirement that "the ascent (of the faithful) will be gradual, so that the climbing will bring more devotion".[3]




The corner-stone was laid by the Patriarch of Venice Giovanni Trevisano on May 3, 1577 and the building was consecrated in 1592.[4] At the urgent solicitations of Pope Gregory XIII, after consecration the church was placed in charge of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.[5] A small number of Friars reside in the monastery attached to the church.
Every year the doge and senators walked across a specially constructed pontoon bridge from the Zattere to Giudecca to attend Mass in the church. The Festa del Redentore remains a major festival in the Venetian calendar, celebrated on the third Sunday in July. A huge firework display on the previous evening is followed by a mass procession across the pontoon bridge.
Click here to read the entire article:
Have you calculated all that? It means that Venice has been re-enacting the original Redentore scene for 433 years. (Do any of you scholars out there know if the ceremony was suppressed by Napoleon?) This year was especially poignant for me -- more religious, less "festive" -- this year I spent most of my time hanging out in the church, or rather, churches. 


To watch the fireworks on Saturday night, I sat on the ledge at the top of those awesome stairs of the Church of Redentore, dangling my legs over the  edge, as I often have done on the ledge of my own balcony. I counted twelve people, including a nun, who, too, were sitting on the ledge. It gave a good view of the lagoon and the sky, and raised us above the crowd below. Nature, too, got in on the act -- a dark cloud flashed lightning bolts at the other end of the lagoon -- a great build-up to a spectacular thunderstorm that finally arrived very early Sunday morning.


Later on Sunday, the morning of Redentore, the air was fresh and clear. I had the great honor of having the Mass in the Church of Sant' Eufemia, (located closer to the Hilton on Giudecca) dedicated to me; the service was performed by a Capuchin friar. Sant' Eufemia is a sweet, ancient church whose Venetian-Byzantine foundation dates back to the ninth century; it was a beautiful ceremony that I appreciated very much. Later that evening it was standing-room-only back at the Church of Redentore, with our Patriarch, Angelo Scola, performing the ancient rite that has been celebrated by Patriarchs of Venice for centuries.

Ciao from Venice,
Cat

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post. Never been at Redentore, I try to avoid visiting Venize in summer, I very much like the way you design your blog, small pictures threaded in the text. Keep up the good work.
    Jon, Bilbao

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  2. Hi there Cat!

    Hope you're having a wonderful summer! Great post again. Thinking good thoughts for you.

    Cheers,
    Christopher

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