Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Plagues Past and Present: Festa della Salute 2016

One member of a procession of plague doctors calling attention to a list of things they believe are now killing Venice

Picturesque though it all is, I realized this year that I couldn't bear to take another photo of the large banks of lit candles, the squads of young tenders to the flames, the pressing throngs, or the decorated interior of Santa Maria della Salute at this year's festa.

The candle stalls, the long row of sweet stalls, the huge bundles of balloons: those, too, were no less colorful, but I just couldn't find it in me to shoot them yet again.

The festa commemorates St. Mary's deliverance of the city from the plague of 1630-31; an act of heavenly kindness for which the church itself was built as a little token of gratitude. And, implicitly, one suspects, as something of a bribe: a big splashy gesture to curry the kind of favor that might lead Her to protect the city from the next plague.

A crowd on the steps of the basilica and, in the distance, another on the votive bridge across the Grand Canal

But not long after vespers sounded last night, a procession of between two and three dozen figures dressed in the traditional garb and masks of the plague doctor appeared behind a slow, steady drum beat to call attention to a present-day plague upon Venice: one which shows little sign of abating or being effectively addressed.

As you can see on the tablet carried by the plague doctor in the image above, Venice, in the opinion of the marchers (and many others), is now being done in by: exodus, "bite and run" mass tourism, cruise ships, and knock-off handicrafts.

I suppose one might pray to Mary for relief from these ailments as well, but I think the many people in the city and around the world who are concerned about them might be satisfied with any signs of serious good-faith human efforts.

But when it comes to those who wield political and economic power in Venice these days it sometimes seems that nothing short of a miracle would get them to take effective action. 

For more representative images of the most famous aspects of the festa see: http://veneziablog.blogspot.it/2013/11/festa-della-madonna-della-salute-and.html

For a description of how to prepare the festa's traditional dish of castradina, see: http://veneziablog.blogspot.it/2013/11/a-ritual-dish-for-la-festa-della.html

Heading into the church to have their two candles lit
Reflections of the crowd in the large lamp hanging from the basilica's central dome

Holy fire inside the church, holy water outside: a charitable organization offering l'acqua di Lourdes for contributions

Behind a phalanx of plastic Mary figurines containing water from Lourdes 

An imperfect panorama of the view from Calle del Bastion

The lone candle stall in the campo of San Gregorio

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