Sunday, 10 July 2016

Cat Bauer in Venice talks about the Festa del Redentore

Fireworks for the Feast of Redentore 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Contrary to what some people think, the Feast of Redentore is not held on the third weekend of July. It takes place on the third Sunday of July, with the festivities starting the Saturday before.

Back in the year 2001, I was writing for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily. That year, the first Sunday of July was July 1. That meant the third Sunday was July 15, but the third Saturday was July 21 -- therefore, July 22nd was the fourth Sunday, even though it was the third weekend. The correct date of Redentore that year was Sunday, July 15, with celebrations starting the day before on Saturday, July 14 -- the second Saturday of July, 2001.

Calendar for July, 2001

This year, 2016, the Festa del Redentore takes place on Sunday, July 17, with the celebrations starting the day before on what happens to be the third Saturday, July 16. The feast is to commemorate the official end of the plague on July 13, 1577, 439 years ago.

Got all that?

Church of Redentore - Photo: Cat Bauer
As I have written many times before, the Festa del Redentore translates to the Feast of the Redeemer. The Church of Redentore was built as a votive church to give thanks for delivery from the plague, which had devastated Venice in the years between 1575 and 1577, wiping out nearly a third of the population, even taking the life of the great Venetian artist, Titian.

  • The Death - On August 27, 1576. Tiziano Vecellio, aka Titian, died of fever during the raging plague. Now, I'm not saying that was the reason the Senate decided to build a church, but I think it is interesting they did so about a week later.
  • The Vow - On September 4, 1576, the Venetian Senate decided that Doge Alvise I Mocenigo should announce that a church would be built for Christ the Redeemer in exchange for ending the plague. So, they decided IN ADVANCE that the only way out was to ask for divine intervention.
  •  The Cornerstone - On May 3, 1577, the cornerstone was laid (more on that later).
  • The End of the Plague - On July 13, 1577, two months later, the plague was officially declared over.
  • The Consecration - The Church of Redentore was consecrated on September 27, 1592.

The Church of Redentore was built on the site of the Church of San Jacopo, not the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, a sweet little ancient church that still stands on the Island of Giudecca, tucked away from most eyes, and is used by the Capuchin Friars to this day.

Pantheon - Photo: by Roberta Dragan
Il Redentore was designed by the great architect, Andrea Palladio, who, by that time, had already built the new Refectory inside the Benedictine monastery on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, as well as designed the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which was in the process of being built at the time the Church of Redentore was ordered up. Palladio's career was strongly inspired by a book he had read written by Vitruvius in the first century BC called De Architectura that had been recently republished in Venice in 1511 (1500 years later), detailing how the ancient Romans built things like temples.

I went into some depth about it in a post I wrote about Aldo Manuzio, which you can read here:

MUST SEE - Aldo Manuzio - Renaissance in Venice - EXTENDED UNTIL JULY 31

To completely over-simplify, if Palladio had had his way, the Church of Redentore would have been round like Pantheon in Rome, but he was overruled by the Venetian Senate, who thought it was too pagan, so what we've got is a single nave church with three chapels on either side, and a Pantheon-inspired facade with an ancient Roman bath-inspired interior. (By the way, Palladio did get to build his dream temple at Villa Barbaro, one of the last things he did.)

Church of Redentore
Such an important church would have had its cornerstone laid by the highest ecclesiastical authority in the Republic of Venice, the Patriarch of Venice, not by Palladio, who, even though he was a genius, was not an aristocrat, although he had the support of some very powerful members of the nobility.

The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. For ecclesiastical structures, it is symbolic of Christ, the "Chief Cornerstone of the Church." When a cornerstone is set, it is often accompanied by official pomp and circumstance, even to this day. All other stones are set in reference to the cornerstone.

Christ the Redeemer by Titian (1534)
The Patriarch of Venice was not just some guy sent over from Rome. From the middle of the 15th century, the office was held by a Venetian patrician elected from the Senate. Surprisingly, he was usually a layman, rather than a cleric. Venice had a long history of doing its best to limit the authority of the Church in Rome inside its territory, and to look out for the interests of its aristocracy.

An exception was Giovanni Trevisan, who was a Benedictine monk, and was the Patriarch of Venice from 1559 to 1590; he was also the son of important Venetian patricians, Paolo and Anna Moro.

And it was Giovanni Trevisan, Patriarch of Venice, who laid the cornerstone for the Church of Redentore on May 3, 1577.

Go to Venezia Unico for the official program. 

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. Contrary to what some people think, the Feast of Redentore, is not held on the third weekend of July. It takes place on the third Sunday of July, with the festivities starting the Saturday before.