Venice is made of many dreams.
Il Redentore is the most phantasmagoric of all Venetian festivities. Celebrated every year only in Venice, it falls on the third Sunday in July and the preceding night.
This tradition originated from a 1576 decree by the Senate of the Venetian Republic, to build a church and mark the end of a plague. That church is the magnificent Basilica del Redentore, designed by Andrea Palladio, one of the most renowned architects of the day. It is said – along with the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore nearby – to be Palladio’s greatest achievement in the field of ecclesiastical architecture.
The church is in the eastern part of the Giudecca. Its Palladian façade shines with the glare of white Istrian marble. It is the most important church of the Giudecca and, once a year, of Venice itself.
A pontoon bridge is assembled on Sunday to connect the embankment of the Zattere with the church of the Redentore across the canal. It is a thank you bridge, and it will carry tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists, dreamily walking on water. Masses are being said non-stop on the hour, and the parish organizes a charity lottery and hosts a celebration concert. The festive atmosphere is contagious and all-inclusive.
The platform with fireworks for the midnight show arrives early on Saturday morning and is moored in the middle of the Bacino San Marco. From early evening on one can watch from the Accademia bridge a never-ending colorful stream of rowing boats, barges, motorboats, fishing boats – in all shapes and sizes, privately owned or chartered, decorated with wreaths and lanterns – in a slow jolly procession toward the Bacino and the Giudecca Canal to find the best space with a view.
Soon the area opposite the church and island of San Giorgio is so thick with boats that one could walk on water jumping from one to another. Everybody seems happy even before it gets dark, but the magic comes – as in an old movie theatre – before midnight when the sky over Venice explodes for nearly one hour with fireworks above the anxiously awaited flotilla of boats.
by Ewa Gorniak Morgan