On November 21st, the Venetians take part in one of the most important celebrations in the city’s life, the Festa della Madonna della Salute (“Feast of Our Lady of Health”). The basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary will be covered, as it is every year, with our Colonne velvet. Let’s discover its story and listen to the recollections of one of the weavers who crafted it between the 1950s and 1960s.

THE FEAST OF THE MADONNA DELLA SALUTE IN VENICE

During the plague epidemic that struck Venice in 1630, the government organized a prayer procession lasting three days and three nights to ask the Virgin Mary to save the city, at the end of which the Doge took a vow to build a new church dedicated to health.

A few weeks later, the plague’s course slowed down and ultimately ceased and the government kept its vow, building the magnificent Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute (Saint Mary of Health) and establishing that a procession of gratitude to Our Lady was to be repeated every year. That is why every year, on November 21st, Venetians – and others – go on a pilgrimage to the basilica.

Interiors of the Basilica Della Salute – Image Gallery

SOPRARIZZO VELVET FOR THE BASILICA DELLA SALUTE

Venice’s government aimed to create a breathtaking church to celebrate Mary and the Republic of Venice. They achieved this goal by erecting an octagonal Baroque masterpiece on the Punta della Dogana, a strip of land between the San Marco Basin and the Grand Canal.

One of its furnishing velvets was made by our Tessitura in the 1960s and it still covers, in all its beauty and freshness despite the passing years, the columns of the Basilica della Salute on feast days. It is a soprarizzo manual velvet called “Colonne” (columns), on whose gilded ground some red architectural elements are embroidered as well as buds, berries, grapes, and many flowers: tulips, daffodils, peonies, and roses, rendered in realistic colors similar to those of the furnishing fabrics from the first half of the 18th century. A design rich in color detail, as you can notice in its weave drafts below, and embellished with pure gold yarns.

It is one of the most complex fabrics produced by our Tessitura. In fact, as many as 8,000 perforated cards containing pattern information were needed to produce it on Jacquard looms. But the complexity of its execution also lies in the length of its repeat, a full 4 meters. This means that each pattern element has an exceptional size of 4 meters in height.

Disegni velluto Colonne-1 | Tessitura Bevilacqua
Disegni velluto Colonne-1 | Tessitura Bevilacqua
Disegni velluto Colonne-1 | Tessitura Bevilacqua
Disegni velluto Colonne-2 | Tessitura Bevilacqua

THE PRODUCTION OF HAND VELVET DESCRIBED BY A WEAVER

The Colonne velvet is one of those with a very special meaning to us because it’s connected to the city we’ve been working in for centuries and that we love. It took our weavers years of work to be completed and required two looms. They had to weave plenty of meters: in fact, it covers the columns of the main altar and those of the eight side chapels of the Basilica della Salute.

Between the Fifties and Sixties, when the Colonne silk velvet came into being, there were 60 weavers at Bevilacqua, and they were in charge of everything needed to weave: from the making of the needles to the preparation of the punched cards, producing by hand lampases, brocades, satins, damasks, and velvets.

Today there are 6 of them, and they mainly deal with soprarizzo velvets. Mariella Bearzi, one of the weavers who made the Colonne velvet, started working at Tessitura Bevilacqua at 12 and retired at 67. She explained to us:

“…I continue to enter the basilica every year during the Feast days. There must surely be a piece of the velvet I made on those columns. …The hardest fabric to produce is the soprarizzo. We needed a lot of strength to work here, but most of all we needed to know a lot because we had various tasks. I loved this job and I loved the fabrics we made, too. And I think they should never pass into oblivion.”

THE STORY OF A PRECIOUS FABRIC

The soprarizzo Colonne was commissioned by the then Patriarch of Venice Angelo Roncalli, who shortly thereafter became pope under the name John XXIII.

In this picture, you can see him visiting our Tessitura to admire the velvet chosen for the Basilica della Salute, together with Cesare and Giulio Bevilacqua – grandfather and father of the current owners, respectively – and many weavers, among which was Mariella Bearzi.

Visita Patriarca Roncalli | Tessitura Bevilacqua

This velvet faithfully recreated the original one that previously covered the columns of the basilica during the Feast.

Its workmanship, design, materials, and history make this soprarizzo velvet a precious fabric that must be carefully preserved. This is why it is displayed only on the most important days for the Basilica della Salute, so that Venetians and all pilgrims can appreciate it for a long time to come.

Velluto in seta a mano Salute-Angela Colonna | Tessitura Bevilacqua

Photo Credit: Angela Colonna

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