Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health), Venice

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health), Venice (must see)

While San Marco may hold the title of Venice's most famous church in name, it is Santa Maria della Salute that claims the city's most iconic image and silhouette. Affectionately known as La Salute, this grand historical church is largely recognized as the pinnacle of the city's Baroque movement.

La Salute is the youngest among the so-called "plague churches". Back in the early 1630s, Venice was ravaged by a plague that claimed the lives of nearly 100,000 people, roughly one-third of the lagoon's population. In gratitude for deliverance from this calamity, the Republic of Venice made a vow to construct and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Good Health (or Deliverance), hence the name "Salute" in Italian. Resting on a foundation of over 100,000 wooden piles, the church was designed in the fashionable Baroque style of the time by Baldassare Longhena, who devoted half a century to this grand project and lived long enough to witness its completion in 1681.

The dome of La Salute became an important addition to the Venetian skyline and soon became emblematic of the city, inspiring painters both local, such as Canaletto and Francesco Guardi, and foreign, such as J. M. W. Turner, Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent.

The basilica itself offers an intriguing visit. Its sacristy houses a small art gallery featuring notable works such as Tintoretto's "Marriage Feast of Cana" and allegorical ceiling paintings by Titian, the eminent figure of the 16th-century Venetian school. These include masterpieces like "David and Goliath", "Abraham and Isaac", "Cain and Abel", as well as eight circular paintings depicting the "Doctors of the Church and the Evangelists". Also by Titian are "The Descent of the Holy Ghost", located in the third altar to the left of the entrance, and the altarpiece of the sacristy portraying "Saint Mark Enthroned with Saints Cosmas, Damian, Sebastian, and Roch."

A highly symbolic statuary group called "The Queen of Heaven expelling the Plague" (1670) by the Flemish sculptor Josse de Corte stands out at the high altar. This theatrical Baroque masterpiece depicts the Virgin (portrayed as a kneeling young woman) and Child rescuing Venice from the clutches of the plague (portrayed as an old woman).

Entrance to the Basilica is always free during the opening hours, although a ticket is required to enter the main sacristy (museum). It is advisable to secure your tickets in advance to avoid long queues. Once inside, you can indulge in a unique view of the adjoining square from the balcony and, if fortunate, attend a 30-minute organ recital following the service. Be sure to check the events program in advance for schedules and enjoy this special experience.

Tip:
As there are limited cafes in the vicinity, it is advisable to bring a drink with you during your visit.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Venice. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health) on Map

Sight Name: Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health)
Sight Location: Venice, Italy (See walking tours in Venice)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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