Santa Maria della Salute – in translation: 'Saint Mary of Health', sometimes 'The Basilica of Good Health' – and commonly referred to simply as the 'Salute'.
This iconic feature of the Venice skyline – later painted by every artist who ever set up easel in Venice from Canaletto to J M Turner and John Singer Sargent – owes its glorious existence to a human disaster of tragic proportions.
In 1630, Venice – and the whole Veneto region – was reeling from the devastating onslaught of the Plague. It began in August and the Black Death, in a matter of months, and claimed over 46,000 of the City's 140,000 population. In the October, the Patriarch, Dodge and Senate led the people in an act of penitence and made a vow to build a church to the glory of God as a thank-offering if the City were spared.
That church is the Salute and it remains the focus of an annual act of remembrance ever 14 November, when the city crosses the Grand Canal by pontoon bridge to make its devotions.
The Salute's architect, Baldassare Longhena, wrote: 'This church... being dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, made me think – with what little talent God has bestowed upon me – of building the church in the... shape of a crown.'
Begun in 1631 and completed 50 years later it is in the form of an octagonal rotunda and, as
Longhena noted, 'It is a virgin work... curious, worthy and beautiful, made in the form of a round monument that has never been seen, nor ever before invented, neither altogether, nor in part, in other churches in this most serene city...'
The high altar features a dramatic work of Baroque theatricality: a sculptural group by the Flemish sculptor Josse de Corte, depicting 'the Queen of Heaven expelling the Plague'...
Venice (on the left), with the symbol of Venice's government, the Doge's Cap, placed submissively upon a cushion, pleads for the City before the Madonna and Child while a cherub wielding a flaming torch drives away the evil of Plague.
Over the years, like every other visitor to Venice, David and I have photographed the Salute many times in sunlight, fog, rain and snow. Here are a few of our pictures...
Photos: © Brian Sibley & David Weeks