The return of the Redentore in Venice. The history of an event that recalls the end of an epidemic

18 October 2021

Venice, July 13th, 2021 -The Redentore, one of the most awaited celebrations for the venetians, this year has a greater resonance as Venice celebrates its 1600 years from its foundation. Celebrated on Saturday July 17th, 2021, it recalls the end of the terrible plague epidemic that hit the city between 1575 and 1577. Venetians call it “Redentore”, and it is part of the costumes and culture of Venice citizens which continue on renovating gastronomic traditions and celebrations handed down by their ancestors that made, through years, this globally known venetian event as one of the city’s most famous touristic attraction. 

The origin of the Redentore

Every year, the Redentore is celebrated on the third Sunday of July. It is a religious celebration established on July 20th, 1576, to recall the end of the plague epidemic that destroyed the city between the ’75 and ’77 of the 16thcentury, becoming the second worst city epidemic after the one of 1348. This contagious disease caused, in thoseyears, the death of more than 50 thousand people, a third of the venetian population. It was the 4th of September 1576 when the Senate of the Serenissima Republic chose to establish the church dedicated to the Cristo Redentore in order to eradicate the plague from Venice. The first stone of the church, projected by Andrea Palladio, was laid on May 3rd, 1577. From that time on, the church of Redentore became the symbol of a decisive moment for the city of Venice that, in the same year in which the works for the construction of the church began, was freed by a plague that had almost destroyed the city. 

On the day of the first Redentore, in 1577, in order to celebrate the end of the epidemic, venetians built a bridge of boats that connected the island of Giudecca, where the church of Cristo Redentore was being built. On this bridge, the first religious parade took place and, after 444 years, still is part of the celebration rituals. In the past, the votive bridge, which used to be made of boats placed one near the other, today is built with several wooden pieces put together and placed on floating supports that allow people to cross the Giudecca canal, walking from Zattere (from the Santo Spirito church) until the church of the Redentore, on the other side of the canal. This temporary pedestrian way is crossed by the majority of venetians and by tourists, in order to reach the island of Giudecca on the days of the Redentore. The bridge will be open on the evening of July 16th.

The Redentore from the past to the present: how the celebrations evolved throughout years

Several were the days entirely dedicated to the Redentore in the 1800s. On Saturday, the first day of the celebrations, people used to go with their own boats, fully decorated with flowers, enlightened balloons and leafy branches in the island of Giudecca. There, along the shores, little stands selling fennels, blackberries, lemon balm water of the Padri Carmelitani Scalzi, sole fishes with saor, duks and roasted chickens, are located. Then, the tradition said, venetians had to move by boat towards the island of Lido at dawn. On Sunday morning, a religious parade used to take place, beginning from the St. Mark’s Basilica and crossing the canal, through the votive bridge, until reaching the church of the Redentore. Eventually, in the evening, people could watch the firework show. 


Today, the celebrations of the Redentore are very faithful to the ones of the past. In addition to the votive bridge, opened on Friday evening before the show and the religious parade, the Redentore is celebrated by venetians on the Giudecca shores, directly on board, with fully decorated and docked boats in the Giudecca canal, or with long tables where family and friends can taste Venice traditional food. This tradition will be kept also this year, although with some changes both on land and on water due to the Covid-19 containment measures. 

On the night between Saturday and Sunday, within St. Mark’s Basin, the fireworks show of the Redentore, an event that attracts tourists from all over the world colouring the venetian sky and giving even greater light to its beauty. This year, as Venice celebrates its 1600 years, fireworks will have a special theme, not only related to colours but also to the images that will be portrayed in the sky. 


Sunday is entirely dedicated to the Regattas of the Redentore, venetian rowing competitions on traditional venetian boats, from the gondolas to the pupparini, which take place on the afternoon and on the Sunday that follows the day of the Redentore on the Giudecca Canal with rowing champions for different categories.