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The Salute Church:” the Macchina “of the Republic

Along the Grand Canal there is a massive church that can be seen from the quay side of Saint Mark’s Square. The name of the church is Santa Maria della Salute. It was built by one of the major architects of the 17th century, Baldassare Longhena, who worked mainly in Venice. He won the competition organized by the Serenissima and constructed a revolutionary structure because of its round plan. It was the first time that an architect was able to achieve this target in Venice. Longhena himself understood the extent of his innovation so much that he defined his work as “a round machine”.

However, the church was built by the Venetian government for a particular reason. Venice was in the midst of a plague pandemic and its government promised to construct a new church in honor of Mary if she had put an end to the pandemic with her intervention.

The Madonna was then rewarded and represented in the guise of a captain from the sea on the top of the largest dome.

On 21st of November every year the Venetians still celebrate la Salute and on this occasion a temporary wooden bridge is built by the town hall to connect the two banks of the Grand Canal.

In the past it was used for the processions that went to the church to commemorate the end of the plague.

Inside the church on the main altar there is a Byzantine Black Madonna. It adorns the altar from 1670 when Francesco Morosini took it with him as Candia ( Crete) fell in the hands of the Ottomans.

Above it there is a group of baroque sculptures representing Venice kneeling in front of Mary and an angel pushing the black plague away.

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