Santa Maria della Salute is as much an icon of Venice as anything on the other side of the Grand Canal in the Piazza, it’s position at the mouth of the waterway is advantageous, but the the building really makes the most of it with its large dome echoed by a smaller partner. It’s a treat for any visual artist, so who am I to quibble with Turner and Canaletto in finding this picturesque?
For a posting on Christmas Day, it seemed appropriate to use one of the city’s greatest churches; Santa Maria della Salute. The Church that was built in thanks for salvation from the plague.
Even a hater of Baroque like Ruskin was obliged to comment in her favour, describing the facade as “rich and beautiful”. Just as well since the church and it’s position on the opposite side of the Grand Canal to St Mark’s make it such a prominent feature of the cityscape.
From the 14th century onwards, Europe was devastated by recurring outbreaks of bubonic plague; The Black Death. Venice was no exception, but in the 1630’s roughly a third of the population died as a result. Previous outbreaks had led to the building of churches in the hope that such a display of devotion would prompt the saints to intervene. With such a casualty rate as was experienced in 1630 no ordinary saint would do, and so they called upon the Virgin Mary herself to deliver them.
The baroque basilica that they constructed in thanks is Santa Maria della Salute (St Mary of Health), and is stunning enough to rival some of the wonders of St Marks from across the basin in Dorsoduro. Travelling down the canal the church is first glimpsed from beneath the Accademia bridge, and her domes are a signpost of the wonders to come.