Hidden treasures

The strange altar of the Basilica della Salute in Venice

Unknown places & works

The strange altar of the Basilica della Salute in Venice

On 21 November Venice celebrates the Madonna della Salute, which commemorates the end of a terrible plague, which between 1630 and 1631 decimated the population of Venice.

In those days no one knew exactly how the disease was unleashed and all attempts to stop the infection were unsuccessful, so the government of the Venice Republic made a vow to the Virgin Mary, promising that if the plague was finally over, they would build a new church dedicated to her. So on 21 November 1631 the first stone of the new building was laid, designed by the great architect Baldassare Longhena.

Inside you can admire a very special altar designed by Longhena. It consists of three marble statues, carved by the Flemish artist Just Le Court. The left figure represents Venice, a beautiful girl who asks for help to the stop the plague from the Virgin Mary; the central figure is in fact the Madonna and Child, to whom the church is dedicated; and finally the third figure on the right - a nasty old and ragged woman – represents the plague, who runs in a terrified way in front of the Virgin Mary. The altar also houses a Byzantine icon of the Madonna della Salute or Mesopanditissa, who, from the island of Crete, was brought to Venice by Francesco Morosini in 1670, when they had to cede the island to the Turks.

The Basilica of the Madonna della Salute is one of the many precious artistic and architectural gems that adorn Venice...would you like to discover the others? Book our customizable tour 'Your Own Venice: private guided tour of Venice' and travel in the world of Venetian curiosities! 

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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