Fireworks will light up St Mark’s at the Festa del Redentore
Venice has a number of festivals which commemorate the overcoming of plagues that overran the city in the 16th and 17th centuries. The biggest of these festivals is the Festa del Redentore – Festival of the Redeemer – which takes place this coming weekend on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th July. The Festa marks the end of an epidemic in 1576 which killed 50,000 people, including the great painter Tiziano Vecellio (Titian). The Doge at the time commissioned Andreas Palladio to build a magnificent church on the island of Giudecca. The church, known as Il Redentore, was consecrated in 1592, and is one of the most important examples of Palladian religious architecture.
Il Redentore Church can still be reached by pilgrims during the festival by means of an impressive 330-metre-long pontoon bridge, constructed especially for the Festival. Crossing the rickety bridge which is set up between Zattere and the Redentore Church is supposed to bring good luck. The “Redentore” celebrations include a solemn religious service and procession presided over by the patriarch of the city.
Preparations for the festival will begin early on Saturday morning when people will begin to decorate their boats, or the small wooden terraces on rooftops from where they can admire the fireworks. At sunset, St Mark’s basin begins to fill with up with boats of all kinds, festooned with balloons and garlands, and thousands of Venetians await the fireworks while dining on the boats. The fireworks begin at around 10pm and are set off from pontoons placed just off the island of San Giorgio. St Mark’s basin becomes one of the most atmospheric stages in the world as the fireworks illuminate the famous Venetian skyline.
For those not fortunate enough to have a place on a boat to watch the fireworks the best places to celebrate and watch the fireworks display are on Giudecca Island, which also gets very crowded, and Riva degli Schiavoni near St Mark’s square.