Plague And Paintings: Venice’s Chiesa Del Redentore

There are so many wonderful sights to discover on one of our Italian river cruises. Italy is a land of culture, history and water, and nowhere is this more true than in the city on the lagoon. A luxury cruise that passes through the Venetian lagoon will give you the opportunity to meander by foot alongside the city’s waterways and take in all its glorious sights. It’s definitely worth stepping ashore to take a closer look at some of its medieval treasures like the fascinating Chiesa del Redentore.

Surviving the Plague

Set in the south of Venice, in the Giudecca region of the city, the Chiesa del Redentore was built to fulfil a vow to God, made by the people of Venice while they were suffering the ravaging affects of the plague in 1575 (a third of the city’s population died). As the plague abated, the people of Venice made good on their promise and by 1577 the venerated Venetian architect Andrea Palladio had been commissioned to design the church.

By May of 1577 the first stone was laid and later that year, in July, the end of the plague was announced. To celebrate the end of the horrifying epidemic, the Venetians held a procession, creating a bridge of boats to span the Giudecca Canal. A special mass was written by Giosefo Zarlino to mark the opening of the church and an eight voice motet, created by Andrea Gabrieli, was sung.

A procession is still held to this day in July along the Guidecca Canal to commemorate those lost to the plague.

Palladian Architecture

The church was commissioned by the Senate on land belonging to Capuchin friars, a monastic order based in Giudecca who owned the land on which the church would be built. Despite needing the approval of the order, Palladio did not curb his ambitions for the project, creating instead one of his most ambitious and applauded works. It is also one which has become a high point for visitors who stop at Venice during one of the many Po River cruises. Italy is rightly proud of its most famous architect, and it is certainly worth stopping off to take a closer look at one of his most impressive creations.

Rather than using the traditional plan of the Christian cross for the layout of the church, Palladio based his church on the architecture of the Roman spas. The building is made of three sections: the nave, with its two chapels, the mid-section with a high dome and apses, and the deep choir and artful colonnade.

Palladio was instructed by the monastic order not to use any precious materials. Nonetheless the architect managed to use terracotta and plain white interiors to create the stunning effect on view today.

Renaissance Artwork

Beyond the impressive Palladian architecture the Chiesa del Redentore is worth visiting for its fascinating collection of Renaissance artwork. The walls of the church are adorned with paintings by the likes of Veronese, Tintoretto, Bassano, Palma il Giovane and Paolo Piazza, as well as panels created by Palma il Giovane, Bassano and Bissolo.

Stunning Palladian architecture is just one of the wonders you can discover on our Po River cruises. Italy is a treasure trove of historic buildings and rich culture ripe for discovery, ideal for exploring from the tranquil setting of its waterways.

Author Plate

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury river cruises and barge holidays throughout Europe. If you're looking for the most exciting and relaxing river cruises, Italy  is an ideal choice. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.

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