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Various traditions are part of this festa…walking across the votive bridge, of course, and lighting candles inside La Salute, and buying balloons for the kiddies.

It’s also the only time of year when they open the main doors of the church, and it’s such an amazing sight when you walk in through those rather than the side doors open the rest of the year. I took this photo early Sunday morning before the crowds and the torrential rain came.


Most of the time when you visit this church, the central floor under the dome is roped off, but during the festa, the ropes were gone. I’d read somewhere that it’s good luck to touch your foot to the central circle right under the dome, and when I saw other people doing it, I had to do it too. The inscription around the circle reads Unde Origo Inde Salus (whence the origin, thence the salvation and health), a reference to the belief that Venice’s very origins are connected to the Virgin (legend has it that Venice was founded on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) in 421).




Castradina is one tradition that I skipped. It’s a mutton and cabbage stew, and during the week of the festa, many osterie around town had signs advertising it. Even La Zucca had it on their menu. During the 18 months of plague in 1630-31 when Venice was under quarantine, this was all they had to eat. I had to pass on this. Even if I still ate meat, I’m not sure I would have been up for this stew!


Also traditional are the nuns outside selling holy water. I learned about this from TrekCapri’s blog when she attended the Festa della Salute a few years ago. I got a bottle of it, brought it home, and then realized, I have no clue what you’re supposed to do with holy water! Am I supposed to drink it? Pour it on my head? Maybe one of my Catholic friends can help me out with this. :) I love the bottle (it’s marked at the bottom that it’s holy water from Lourdes).


Back to the bridge….last week I bought a copy of this special edition of National Geographic. Fantastic photos and great reading. There’s a photo in there of a temporary pontoon bridge built across the Ganges for the Hindu festival, the Kumbh Mela. Very cool. I love traditions that cross faiths and cultures like that. And really, the votive bridge was my favorite part of the Festa della Salute even though I'm not completely sure why.


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Comments (8)


The floor tiles in Santa Maria della Salute are really lovely, I hope that touching the centre brings you luck! This festa must have been so cool.

I also like that funky bottle of Lourdes water, what a great souvenir. As a Catholic, I can't say what value this would have, other than symbolic. I don't think it's Holy Water (although again, I'm more into the symbolism of these things!) I'd be scared to drink it, but then I'm kinda squeamish about water -- I can't even stand hot tubs and public pools anymore!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, I love all of your photos especially the one with the candles. It is so wonderful to see the Salute without the scafolding which they had covering the dome when I was there in 2007. I remember how beautiful the floor was but I didn't know about the saying about stepping on the center tile for luck. I also hope that it brings you lot's of luck in the coming year and always.

I'm a Catholic I know we use holy water when entering and exiting church and for baptismals. I left my water in the bottle as part of my souvenir. I love it and put it on a shelf next to my bed. I like that National Geographic edition and will have to see if I can pick one up.I also enjoy reading about other traditions from all the different faiths.

Thanks so much for sharing.


I was there and it was beautiful! I'm sure it would've been even better if it wasn't raining, but it didn't seem to slow anyone down. I think this is one of my favorite churches. Maybe because of that day...it was a moving experience.


The Pope led a pilgrimage to Lourdes recently (I think last year). Perhaps the nuns got it then. It will have been blessed. Put some in a bowl near your door and as you leave your house in the morning dip in a finger and make the sign of the cross on your forehead to receive God's blessing for the day. DON'T drink it!(We're Anglo-catholic- Church of England- not Roman but we use a lot of Roman rituals. Bells and smells (incense) in our services.

Such a great and informative post. The church looks like a cupcake afloat in water. The floor mosaics always remind me of a quilt. Attention was paid to the details in Roman architecture.

In olden days, holy water was used to ward off evil spirits (i.e., Satan). Yes, it's used as a ritual as Kathy mentioned (entering/leaving a church and baptisms. Also used when the priest gives a blessing to the congregation. For personal reasons, I think it is just a momento. I'd be leary of drinking it!

Thanks for your comments everyone. Lisa, we must have crossed paths in the church; I'm glad you were able to attend the festa too.

Okay, I won't drink it! Actually, I thought of a good use for it...I was looking through my photos and saw a shrine on Burano that had the exact same little Madonna bottle inside the shrine. So if and when I get around to building my garden shrine, I'll put it in there. :)

I have so enjoyed reading all about the festa. The picture of the church is so beautiful! I also love to see the wonderful detail work in the mosaic tile floor and to learn of the tradition of stepping on the center circle. I hope it brings you luck for this coming year and always! I will look forward to seeing how you do your garden shrine with your bottle of holy water, I think that is such a perfect idea.

Thanks SandraK. I'm so glad I was able to attend this festa. I was a little bit wary about going to Venice in November since that is usually the rainiest month of the year, but it all worked out just fine. I hope you'll be able to return to Venice in 2011!

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