Each year on the third Sunday of July, Venice celebrates the Festa del Redentore. The feast originates in the 16th century, and has been celebrated annually ever since.
From 1575 to 1577 Venice suffered a plague epidemy, and in 1576 the Senate ordered the Doge to wow the construction of a church to the Redeemer to deliver the city from the plague. The building of the church started in 1577, and the Chiesa del Redentore, or Church of the Redeemer, was consacrated in 1592.
The plague was officially declared over on July 13th, 1577, and since the Feast of the Redeemer has been held on the third Sunday of July each year.
The official programme of the feast is not very extensive, but the feast holds a special place for most Venetians. A votive bridge of boats is made on Saturday from the Zattere area across the Canale Giudecca to the Chiesa del Redentore on the Giudecca island, and a procession lead by the Patriach of Venice crosses to the church for mass at the church. Saturday evening is the central part of the feast for most people, with an incredible display of fireworks on the water in St. Mark’s basin. On Sunday there are further masses and a regatta in traditional boats.
Most Venetians celebrates the Redentore by having dinner in the open on Saturday with family and friends, often along long tables set along the Canale Giudecca and other places, or in boats in the St. Mark’s basin, with the fireworks as the grand finale. The number of boats in the Canale Giudecca and in St. Mark’s basin was astonishing, it literally took hours for them to get away afterwards, in a slow procession through Canal Grande or towards the Lido.
In fact, the best way to enjoy the spectacle is from a boat, as it gets very crowded indeed on land.