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The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of St Mary of Health/Salvation), commonly known simply as the Salute, is one of the largest churches of Venice and has the status of a minor basilica. It stands at the junction between the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco on the lagoon.

In October 1630, the Senate decreed that if the city was delivered from the currently raging plague that had killed about a third of Venice's population, then a new church would be built and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Baldassare Longhena, then only 26 years old, was selected to design the new church. It was finally completed in 1681, the year before Longhena's death.

Every year, on 21 November, the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin, the city's officials processed from San Marco to the Salute for a service of thanksgiving for deliverance from the plague. This involved crossing the Grand Canal on a specially constructed pontoon bridge. The Festa della Madonna della Salute is still a major event in Venice.

The Salute is a vast, octagonal building built on a platform made of 100,000 wooden piles. It is constructed of Istrian stone and marmorino (brick covered with marble dust). While its external decoration and location capture the eye, the internal design itself is quite remarkable. The octagonal church, while ringed by a classic vocabulary, hearkens to Byzantine designs such as the Basilica of San Vitale. The interior has its architectural elements demarcated by the coloration of the material, and the central nave with its ring of saints atop a balustrade is a novel design. It is full of Marian symbolism - the great dome represents her crown, the cavernous interior her womb, the eight sides the eight points on her symbolic star.

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Additional Photos by vagelis vgs (grifos) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 102 W: 56 N: 132] (908)
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