The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute or simply Chiesa della Salute was built in 1630 on the Punta della Dogana. It was consecrated on 21 November 1687. The building was completed in about twenty years and became an exemplary model of Baroque architecture that was imitated throughout Europe. The church was built to thank the Virgin Mary for ending a plague epidemic. It was one of the most serious epidemics that decimated the Venetian population.
The massive white marble church, designed by the architect Baldassare Longhena, dominates the entrance to the Grand Canal, its tall domes imitating those of St Mark's. The architect wanted to thank the Virgin Mary for having put an end to the plague. The architect wanted to thank the Madonna and built the church by referring the appearance of the outer façade to the crown of the Virgin Mary. The structure of the church is octagonal and a large semi-circular dome rests on it. Six smaller domes embellish the structure. It seems that the octagonal structure is a further reminder of the Virgin Mary as Ave Maria Stella or the guiding star for seafarers. Here the Loghena wants even more to reinforce the relationship between Venice, the Sea and the Virgin Mary. Inside you will find an extensive collection including works by Tintoretto and Titian. The Virgin is also honoured on the high altar with a Byzantine icon and a marble sculptural group.
21 November is the Feast of the Salute (festa della Salute), when Venetians come to give thanks and pray for their health. On this day, the church displays treasures that are kept the rest of the year. Gilded frontals are displayed on each side altar, some decorated with hundreds of precious stones and jewels. Also on display is the Madonna Nicopeia, the most important icon in Venice, said to have been painted by St Luke. A week before the festival, a pontoon bridge is built across the Grand Canal to access the church. On 21 November, citizens cross the pontoon bridge to attend mass, light candles and meet friends. This procession starts from St Mark's and arrives at the Salute Church, led by the Archbishop of Venice.