Venetian Tradition Lives On In Festa del Redentore Or Feast Of The Redeemer

The Festa del Redentore, also known as the Feast of the Redeemer or Redeemer Day, is probably Venice’s most spectacular and cherished celebration. Commemorating the end of the fatal plague that hit Venice during the 1500’s, on the third Sunday of July Venice gets transformed into a magical scenery, where boats and gondolas gather in the Venetian Lagoon to take part of the most awaited night spectacle. This is without a doubt the biggest festival in Venice.

Venice Festa del Redentore Fireworks

While Carnevale (the annual Carnival) may be the most popular Venetian festivity among tourists, Redeemer Day remains the most important and authentic of local events. Tourists from every part of the world marvel while Venetians celebrate with gondola races, impressive fireworks and delicious local dishes. This feast is rich in ceremonies, performances and theatricality; it is a jolly reminder of both tragedy and gratitude.

The Feast of the Holy Redeemer takes Venetians back to 1575. Europe had been hit with one of the most deadly of plagues, making Venice loose over 50,000 people in only two years. Belief has it that it spread mainly because of rodents and the poor sanitary conditions in vessels that traveled to the East, which lead people to praise cats as a decisive solution. Others, on the other hand, turned to divine salvation, constantly praying for the plague’s extinction. The Doge of Venice, Alvise Mocenigo, went as far as promising a magnificent temple dedicated to the Savior for public devotion, should Venice survive the plague. And so it was in 1577, that the city was declared free of the plague, and the Doge commissioned famous architect Andrea Palladio to build a church in the Island of La Giudecca as a sign of humbleness and gratitude. The end of the plague was celebrated with a joyful procession that crossed a temporary bridge towards the small wooden church that would later be known as Il Redentore. The church was consecrated in 1592 by Antonio da Ponte, twelve years after Palladio’s death, but the floating bridge connecting the shores of Zattere and La Giudecca still allows visitors to reach the church during this special celebration every year.

Nowadays, the Feast of the Redeemer is a more than just a religious pilgrimage; it is a colorful and joyful celebration, full of fun and extravagance mixed with Venice’s most beautiful sights.

Venice Festa del Redentore Fireworks

The most awaited spectacle of the weekend is the fireworks show. It is the moment that attracts thousands of viewers thanks to the kaleidoscope of colors reflected on the Venetian sky. Preparations for such a spectacle begin quite early on Saturday evening, so one can see people decorating their boats and gondolas with lanterns and garlands, while others arrange their rooftops or balconies to see the show. Others organize dinner including an exquisite aperitivo inside their boats. There’s who cooks for 30 people, there’s who joins only a couple of friends, and there are others who book expensive places in elegant boats. At sunset, however, everyone heads over to Saint Marc’s Bay, eagerly awaiting the night’s show. Starting at 11:30, the sky between the canal of La Giudecca and Saint Marc’s Square is illuminated with dazzling fireworks that last about an hour, flashing bright reflections in every dome and rooftop of the Island. It is a magical spectacle, a magnificent show in which the beauty of Venice is reflected in the waters of Saint Marc’s Bay accompanied by music. Through the charm of the fireworks and the inimitable beauty of the Island, Venice becomes the most fascinating scenery anyone could ever imagine. After the spectacular show of the night, many people head over to the Lido, and peacefully wait for the break of dawn.

Boats in the Lagoon during Festa del Redentore in VeniceThe weekend’s festivities end on Sunday, and this day is reserved for religious celebrations. During this last day, a temporary floating bridge of 330 meters connects the church in the Giudecca to the shores of Zattere in the Island of Venice, as it did for the first time hundreds of years ago. People cross this bridge in order to reach the church, Il Redentore, and attend a religious ceremony that commemorates the victims of the plague and the end of the disease. When the religious celebrations are over, it means it is time for the Regatta del Redentore, and people start gathering along the waterfront one more time. It is an ancient tradition that involves several teams of oarsmen racing in gondolas along the canal. It is a competition that attracts many observers who even follow the brightly colored gondolas along the way, while firmly arguing and discussing the match.

Venice_Redentore_Bridge
As any Italian festivity, the Feast of the Redeemer has many collateral activities. Needless to say, the whole city is full of special gastronomical treats. Whether at a wine bar, an ice cream shop or a market on the street, Venice will surely give you a taste of its finest cuisine. Depending on the municipalities and program, the year’s activities change from time to time. There are classical music concerts in churches, sport activities, races, and spectacles. All of the year’s programs can be easily found on veneziaunica.it. Getting around the city during this weekend of celebrations is a rather difficult task as well. Since most of the activities happen on water, it’s always safe to assume that most of the water bus routes will be closed after 8pm Sunday evening, for which it is prudent to reach Saint Marc’s Square much before the fireworks start. The best place to watch the fireworks from goes from Saint Marc’s Square to the small Island of La Giudeca, which gets crowded very fast due to locals booking preferred places on land for dinner time with friends and family. If a distant view of the show is more convenient, there are places like the Lido, the Riva degli Schiavoni or the Rio de Sant’Elena.

Whether on water or on land, one thing is for sure: this Venetian celebration is not one to be missed. During this feast we see the themes so close to the heart of every Venetian and so frequent in Venetian history: tragedy and divinity, darkness and fantasy, overcoming obstacles, gathering strength, celebrating and rejoicing.

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