The second church Palladio built in Venice was the Il Redentore. This is considered a masterpiece, just like the San Giorgio Maggiore. The assignment inspired Palladio to create a very different church from his first. The Redentore was founded for the Lord as Savior. This church was not built by a religious order, but by the Senate.
Construction of the church was in the hands of the Capuchins, a branch of the Franciscans. The church was not built according to the specific wishes of this Order, but was mainly a place for pilgrimage, and of course the end of the annual procession in the summer. The Order complained that the Redeemer was far too luxurious. The foundations were laid in the same year they decided on the construction, in 1577. The original budget was surpassed with sixty thousand ducats, making the church seven times as expensive as planned.
The church was built in a very special location. Along the Giudecca, facing the San Marco. This beautiful and remarkable place was chosen deliberately. Votive churches in Italy were always placed on a prominent location on the borders of the city. This made a great impression on the pilgrims who came from outside the city.
It is a votive church (sacrifice through vow), built after a devastating plague epidemic in 1576 killing thirty percent of the population. In 1577, the Senate decided to spend as much as ten thousand ducats on the construction of the Redeemer. It was also decided that the Doge, the Senate and the choir of the San Marco would attend the church every third Sunday of July via a pontoon bridge. This votive church thus served as the ending point of a procession.
The Doge has to arrive exactly opposite the church on the south side of the Fondamenta delle Zattere through small, dark alleys to see the Redentore. A huge contrast: the dark and narrow streets, where the eyes only have a short field of view and the open space, abundantly lit by then sun, with the Redeemer in white marble as the absolute eye-catcher.
The pontoon bridge has a precise right angle to the facade and is located in the middle of it. The façade was designed in a way to be seen from this point. If you are on this bridge to cross the Giudecca, the church with its dome looks a lot like a central-plan building.
The Senate discussed the blueprints at length: a central-plan building or a basilica? They opted for a basilica because of the procession. Also in this church, Palladio created a kind of synthesis between a basilica and a central-plan building. Click here for the layout of the Il Redentore. The facade has a sculpture of Faith with a cross above the pediment and Christ who had just risen from his grave on top of the lantern: noli me tangere. Furthermore a sculpture of Mark the evangelist and Francis of Assisi.
This was the first time Palladio could build a church above street level. This is entirely consistent with the views of Vitruvius and Alberti. Palladio also recommends this himself in his ‘Quattro Libri’. The steps that lead to the entrance increase the effect of the procession. One has to really ascend (Wikipedia: Festa del Redentore).
The facade was probably designed a bit later than the church itself and is more exuberant than the San Giorgio Maggiore. Also worth noting, two temple pediments overlap each other here. The rhythm of the triangles, the pediments, seems to support the dome. It also masks the buttresses that look more like a triangular pediment than a buttress.
Palladio turns the tholobate of the Tempietto by Bramante inside out. The colonnade behind the altar was strongly influenced by the Pantheon. Roman bath houses also had a strong influence on the interior of this church.
Palladio was awarded much respect as an architect with these churches. He was also asked for advice for problems at the Ducale after the fires of 1574 and 1577. Palladio did not think the Gothic construction of the Ducale was safe, because the walls that were supported by the double row of columns were twice as thick as the columns themselves. He came up with a schedule to rebuild the Ducale more classically. But Palladio was not capable of persuading the Senate, just as he was not able to give the Il Redentore the shape of a central-plan building.
Serlio, Sanmicheli and Sansovino didn’t only bring the classical idiom to Venice, but also the classical grammar. Palladio brought the grandeur and scale of the classical buildings to La Serenissima. He showed that a building could look grand without lavish decorations and without the use of many types of marble and colours. Click on this blog for more information about the Il Redentore.
We take boat 82 and return to the St. Zaccaria to take a boat to the famous church Santa Maria della Salute.