Celebrating the Festa del Redentore in Venice

The Festa del Redentore is a centuries-long tradition in Venice. It’s celebrated each year on the third Sunday of July, the day of the Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer.

History of the Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer

From 1574 to 1576 Venice suffered a terrible plague. It decimated the city’s population, killing approximately 50,000 people. The Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer is a religious celebration that gives thanks for the end of the plague.

During the plague, the Venetian Doge (the Doge was the leader of the Republic) promised to build a magnificent church if only the plague would end. It did, and immediately the renowned architect Andrea Palladio was commissioned to build the Il Redentore church on the Island of Giudecca. The famous painters Paolo Veronese and Jacopo Tintoretto decorated the church’s interior.

Il Redentore Church was consecrated in 1592. Once the stone foundation for the church had been laid, a temporary wooden church was constructed. A temporary bridge was also built so that the Doge could walk in procession to the church. This pilgrimage became an annual tradition.

Il Redentore Church in Venice
Photo: Il Redentore Church in Venice. Author: Didier Descouens via the Wikimedia Commons.

Celebrating the Festa del Redentore Today

Today, the Festival is a time for revelry and celebration.

Preparations begin early Saturday morning when people begin decorating their boats with balloons and floral garlands. At sunset, the boats make their way to St. Mark’s basin where thousands of Venetians dine and celebrate onboard. At nightfall, Venice’s sky lights up with a spectacular hour-long fireworks display. 

The fireworks are set off from pontoons near the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Seeing the colorful fireworks light up the city’s skyline domes and bell towers is an unforgettable experience.

The Festa del Redentore fireworks in Venice
The Festa del Redentore fireworks in Venice.

After the fireworks, locals and tourists alike make their way to the Lido sandbar to celebrate until dawn.

Sunday afternoon brings the gondola regatta, as well as religious celebrations. Gondolas align to form a temporary, 330 meter-long bridge across the Giudecca Canal to the Il Redentore church, recalling the temporary bridge of centuries past.

Other than festivals, how should you spend a couple days in Venice? Read our blog “Five Things To Do In Venice” next.  

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