Festa del Redentore is a festival which is a lot more significant than just a celebration as far as the venetians are concerned. It is a festival with deep religious implications. The festival has a deep rooted emotional significance as well, since this is a festival commemorating the end of the black plague that almost annihilated Venice. It carries great cultural importance also.
This festival was first conducted in 1577 to celebrate the deliverance of Venice from the terrible plague. Venice was greatly distressed with plague from 1574 to 1576. Then the Doge Alvise I Mocenigo prayed that he would build a church for Christ the Redeemer if the plague ended. Venice was declared free of plague in the next July. So in 1576 the Doge commissioned Andrea Palladio, the great architect and sculptor to build a church on the island of Giudecca. This was later named the Redentore Church or Redeemer’s Church. The church is one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture.
Thereafter, a great festival was organized every year on the third Sunday of July. During the festival a temporary bridge that floats on pontoons will be erected from the main land to the island of Guidecca. A spectacular fireworks display will be presented at the St. Mark’s Bay. Millions throng the Guidecca canal and the nearby places to watch the once-in-a-year event.
The Venetians start the preparations for the festival from Saturday onwards. They will hire boats if they do not own them, these boats will be decorated and tables and chairs will be arranged on the boats for the special dinner for the family. Those who are not fortunate enough to have a boat will demarcate a place for themselves and their family on the water front. Here also tables and chairs will be arranged to enjoy a ceremonial dinner with family and friends.
The terraces and roof tops also will be laden with spectators and revelers. This is a time for socialization. Venetians take it as a social as well as family event, closely connected to their culture. By evening the canal of Guidecca will be filled with boats carrying dining parties in which traditional venetian delicacies will be served.
At 11.30 pm the fireworks start in the St. Mark’s basin. The spectators are the judges of the display. Their praise and criticism are taken seriously by the organizers for any modification in the following year’s event.
The fireworks of Festa del Redentore is an incredible sight. The color galore that explodes into the summer night sky fills every heart with light and color. The Venetians and the visitors, alike, remember the happiness and relief felt by the population in 1576 when the country was at last delivered from the clutches of the plague that had threatened to doom it.
When the fireworks are over, the Venetians return to the main land to engage themselves in music, dance and revelry. It will be the small hours of the morning before they call it a day. The Festa del Redentore of 2015 is scheduled for 18th and 19th July.
by Marina Chernyak