In the summer of 1575, Venice was struck by a terrible plague: in the next two years, over one third of Venice's population - some 50,000 people - fell victim to it. In September 1576, the Senate pleaded for divine intervention and vowed to build a new church, dedicating it to the Redeemer (Redentore). Several design plans were considered hurriedly before the first stone was laid in May 1577. The following 20 July, the end of the plague was celebrated with a procession that weaved its way to the church on the Giudecca island across a pontoon bridge, and giving birth to a tradition that is continued to this day.
The church of Redentore was entrusted to the Capuchin Fathers; an off-shoot of the Observant Franciscans. They made the decisions relating to the planning and construction of the church, choosing to shun marble and other precious materials, in favour of bricks and mortar even for the beautiful capitals adorning the inside of the church. Palladio's designs reflect the functional Capuchins' grid and draw upon ancient spa buildings as sources of spatial sequences that flow effortlessly from one to the next.
The design derives from a harmonious composition of four environments, each exquisitely designed and different to the next: a rectangular nave, side chapels that take a narthex form, a tripartite space consisting of two apses and a curved series of columns and a choir area. Palladio devised intelligent ways to allow the passage of one form to the next; always aiming at a harmonious fusion. For example, the trabeation traces the church's perimeters, bestowing unity, yet without ever breaking its supports: the diagonal cut of the dome's pillars is particularly eye-catching.