Our Lady of Health
The Feast of the Our Lady of Health Madonna della Salute is a religious festival in the city of Venice, which takes place on November 21 of each year and is a local holiday. It is a pilgrimage of thanksgiving in Mary, who has as a goal the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.
Throughout the day, the Basilica, kept open without interruption, are continually celebrated Masses and rosaries, with a continuous influx of the faithful. To facilitate the pilgrimage, is erected a temporary wooden bridge over the Grand Canal that connects Punta della Dogana and Santa Maria del Giglio
The celebration stems from the great epidemic of bubonic plague that struck throughout northern Italy between 1630 and 1631. This is the same epidemic also described by Alessandro Manzoni The Betrothed.
The outbreak was particularly virulent: in a few weeks the entire city was hit with heavy losses among the population and were victims of the same desease also the Doge Nicolò Contarini and the Patriarch Giovanni Tiepolo.
At most of the epidemic, the Government organized a procession of prayer to the Madonna, attended for three days and three nights all the surviving population. On 22 October 1630 the Doge made a solemn vow to erect a grand and solemn votive temple if the city had survived the disease.
The prayer seems to work, because a few weeks later, the epidemic first suffered a sharp slowdown and then died out for good in November 1631.
The final budget was estimated at almost 47,000 deaths in the city area only (over one quarter of the population) and almost 100,000 in the territory of the Republic. The government decreed then to repeat every year, out of gratitude, the procession in honor of Our Lady since then called the "Health".
The Government of the Republic remained true to the vote.
The first pilgrimage of thanksgiving took place November 28, 1631, immediately after the end of the epidemic.
The festival is particularly felt by the population of Venice. It is tradition, the feast of Health, eating a dish made of mutton, the so-called castradina