My favorite experience as an intern this summer was the festival of Redentore on July 3rd. This festival, taking place every year on the third Sunday of July, commemorates the end of the Venetian plague of 1577, in which over 50,000 Venetians died. Although the plague was most likely caused by flea-infested mice carried over on Venetian trading ships from Asia, the explanation dominant at the time viewed the plague as a punishment from God for Venetian excess and wealth. This festival, however, began with the building of the Church of the Redentore on the island of Giudecca, a very simple church (definitely not ornate by any means) built after the end of the plague as a display of thanks to God for their salvation. To allow a procession into the church, a 380-meter bridge was built from main Venice to Giudecca. Ever since, this festival has been celebrated with food, fireworks, and other various festivities throughout the night.
Before interning in Venice, I was unaware of how important this festival was to Venetians. Discussing Redentore with a Venetian colleague at the museum, I discovered that Redentore is “one of the only true Venetian festivals, a festival for Venetians themselves, not simply tourists.”
After work, a group of interns and I went to purchase a variety of foods at a store near the grand waterway between main Venice and Giudecca. We had a picnic with various Italian cheeses, meats, and wine while watching the crowds of Venetians arrive to celebrate. We then had the opportunity to walk across the bridge built in honor of Redentore, recreating the original opening of the church. Although it did not seem like the sturdiest bridge, we successfully made it across the canal, admiring the masses of boats docked in the harbor in preparations for the fireworks later that night. Unfortunately, it began to rain, so we ducked into the Church of the Redentore itself along with crowds of people trying to escape the bad weather. After the rain eventually stopped, we went back outside to admire the fireworks that had began just minutes beforehand. The fireworks continued for 45 minutes!!
This festival was truly one of the most amazing experiences I have had interning, although outside of work, as I got to experience, as I said earlier, the “true” Venice. It was incredible to see all Italians from the area gather in one single area to celebrate their long history dating back centuries!