PALLADIO, Andrea
(b. 1508, Padova, d. 1580, Maser)

Il Redentore: Façade

begun 1577
Photo
Canale della Giudecca, Venice

The end of a particularly virulent outbreak of the plague in the summer of 1576 resulted in Palladio's receiving a commission for another church in Venice, this one built on the adjacent island of the Giudecca. During the plague the doge had vowed that when it ended the city would erect a church to Christ the Redeemer in gratitude. Work began on the church almost immediately, and the following year, on the feast of the Redeemer (the third Sunday in July), the Venetian government established the custom - still observed - of a civic procession over a bridge of boats to a service of thanksgiving in the church.

Palladio's design for the Redentore gives great prominence to the façade. Raised on a podium and approached by a broad stairway, well suited to the frontal approach dictated by the annual ceremony, the façade employs a subtle arrangement of interlocking triangles, pilasters, and attached columns. Palladio's design provided an ingenious solution to the problem of adapting a Roman temple front to the high nave and lower side aisles of the church. He combined two temple fronts: a tall, narrow one for the centre unit fronting the nave with pilasters at either side and attached columns emphasizing the entrance, and a broad, lower one recessed behind the first. For all its complexity, the design manages to convey an impression of serene simplicity. The attic story over the main pediment evokes associations with the Pantheon in Rome, while, rising triumphantly above these classical forms, the bulbous Venetian dome flanked by turrets proudly proclaims the city's Byzantine heritage.

View the ground plan of Il Redentore, Venice.