Ask any Venetian. The best party in Venice isn’t Carnival; it’s the 440-year-old Festa del Redentore. Every year a remarkable 25,000 fireworks explode over Serenissima, as locals take to boats and reclaim their canals. But this festival has a dark and dreadful past, one which led to a surprising Italian innovation.
The Plague Doctors
Today we associate the fearful mask of the plague doctor with death. But actually, these dark figures were the superheroes of their day. Their costume was like an early hazmat suit, with long beaks filled with aromatic herbs which were thought to ward off disease by purifying the air.
The Promise of Redentore
Venice ultimately saved itself from the plague—by putting in place an innovative quarantine strategy. But at the time the credit was given to Christ the Redeemer.To thank God for deliverance from plague, Republic of Venice made true on their promise to build a church: Il Redentore.
Crossing the Votive Bridge
In 1577, the city of Venice held a religious procession on a bridge of boats to arrive at the Giudecca island and lay the foundation stone of Il Redentore. Ever since, the same tradition has been repeated in pretty much the same way. This is now one of the most important events of the modern festival.
A Bridge to the Past
Watch the construction of the bridge in 1951.