Church of the Santissimo Redentore, Venice

Discover this imposing church on the Giudecca, focus of one of Venice’s largest religious festivals

The Church of the Santissimo Redentore (‘Holy Redeemer’) is one of Venice’s two famous plague churches (the second is Santa Maria della Salute). The city was so vulnerable to disease that it erected these magnificent churches in supplication and in thanks for relief. This Renaissance church by Andrea Palladio dates back to a sixteenth-century bout of plague, during which the Venetian senate made a vow to dedicate a grand church to Christ the Redeemer. Il Redentore, as it is known, was built on the island of the Giudecca, where it exchanges fine views across the water with St. Mark’s and the Zattere.

The church was deliberately sited where it would become part of the skyline seen from the main part of Venice. Its dazzlingly clean white façade stands solid and elegant in its classical calm, surmounted by a large dome between small towers, topped with a statue of Christ the Redeemer. The façade of marble incorporates a dramatic flight of steps, and resembles a series of superimposed temples. The whitewashed interior is less dazzling than the exterior, but is another an exercise in restrained classical magnificence. Apparently it was too magnificent for the tastes of its original guardians, the Capuchin monks.

The church is not as packed with impressive artworks as some Venetian churches are. Inside, over the entrance, is a monument to Venice’s deliverance from plague. The sacristy, where paintings include a Madonna and Child by Alise Vivarini, was closed when we visited in January 2007, and no-one seemed aware of any schedule for opening.

In keeping with the original vow made in 1576, annual pilgrimages are still made to the church on the third Sunday in July, to commemorate Venice’s deliverance from the plague. The Festa del Redentore begins the night before, when, according to a Venetian acquaintance, ‘everyone goes out on the water in boats, with alcohol, and there are fireworks which bounce on the water’. For the space of two days, a temporary pontoon-bridge crosses the Giudecca Canal from Venice to the Redentore and the devout troop over to mass.

Votive bridge to the Redentore across the Giudecca canal

Il Redentore is on the island of the Giudecca, south of central Venice. There is a vaporetto stop right outside, naturally called Redentore. There is a charge for admission; the church is included in the Chorus Pass scheme.

If you are interested in reading more, there are several interesting pages on Palladio and the Redentore in Deborah Howard’s very readable book The Architectural History of Venice.

On this site

Festa del Redentore

Santa Maria della Salute

Useful external links

Chorus Pass