Redentore festival is very popular among Venetians. The celebrations start on the Saturday. In the evening they close the Giudecca Canal to public transport and you can only go there by private boat. Then you must stop there for a few hours until traffic is opened again. Why? Well, there is a unique show on that night! Venetians decorate their boats with balloons, flowers and candles. People have dinner on the boats or they organize long tables all along the canal side on Giudecca island.
Redentore festival is a chance to party together, to celebrate the sense of community that is still surviving in Venice. During the Redentore festival night friends, neighbours and relatives organize their dinner together. The most typical food consists of bigoli with onion and anchovies, sweet and sour sardines, stuffed duck, escargots and the most typical summer fruit: watermelon! Wine is another protagonist of the night, together with music and celebrations.
Redentore festival in Venice is related to the homonymous church. It is one of the most outstanding buildings that define the skyline of Giudecca island. Yes, in Venice we do not have skyscrapers, we have churches and bell towers that define our landscape! As regards the above mentioned church, the story of its foundation is related to one of the plague epidemics that affected Venice over the centuries.
We were in 1575, the plague hit the city, in two years there were almost 50,000 victims, if you think that at that time the population of Venice consisted of 150,000 people, this means that one third of the city was killed by the plague. They didn’t treat the disease and people were so desperate that they started thinking that the plague was a punishment sent from God in order to redeem them from their sins. In 1576 the Senate made a vow: they would have financed the building of a church in exchange of God’s help.
In 1577 they started the works, the architect in charge of the project was Andrea Palladio, an important name, today we consider him one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture. They positioned the first stone in May and soon the miracle happened: the plague stopped on the 20th of July 1577! It was a huge relief for the city, they organized a procession to celebrate this event. The Doge and the members of the Senate leaded it and nobles, members of the clergy and Venetian citizens followed them.
They had to reach Giudecca island and there was only one obstacle: the island is separated from Venice by the homonymous canal. The solution was simple: they created a temporary bridge made up of wooden boats, connected together by some ropes. The procession reached the church and people went inside in order to pray and thank God who stopped the plague. The procession became a ritual that the Venetians repeated yearly, this tradition has survived up to the present days.
Every year, on the third weekend of July, they built a temporary bridge on the Giudecca Canal. Today they no longer use wooden boats, the bridge consists of a metal structure that can easily be transported and assembled. It is a unique experience to cross it: the view is astonishing and it is very odd to walk and cross the canal, usually you must use the boat to reach the other side!
We have to say that today Redentore is a festival both religious and spectacular! On the Saturday night at 11Pm the fireworks start, it’s a really beautiful show. Fireworks continue for almost one hour! You can admire them in the sky and you can also see their reflection on the water. It’s a colorful show that makes Venice even more magical. The Giudecca canal on that night is full of boats where people are celebrating all night long. Venetians and tourists gather along the canal sides hours in advance to find the best spots to see the fireworks. The luckiest people are those who own a balcony or a terrace on the rooftop. They have a unique and privileged view!
After the Covid-19 epidemic they were thinking about cancelling Redentore festival. It was a surprise for the Venetians when the mayor confirmed the festival on the18th and 19th of July! Of course, they will take all measures and precautions necessary to protect everybody’s health. There will be restrictions on the number of people who can access the canal side to see the fireworks. Boats will have to reserve their spot on the Giudecca Canal. Social distancing and masks will be mandatory. It will be a strange festival! But at the same time it will be one of the first chances for Venice to go back to local traditions and events! After the lockdown we all need some fireworks!