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Known as “La Salute,” this crown jewel of baroque architecture proudly reigns at a commercially and aesthetically important point, almost directly across from the Piazza San Marco, where the Grand Canal empties into the lagoon. The first stone was laid in 1631 after the Senate decided to honor the Virgin Mary for delivering Venice from a plague that had killed around 95,000 people. It was built from the revolutionary plans of a young, relatively unknown architect, Baldassare Longhena, who dedicated the next 50 years of his life to overseeing its progress (he would die 5 years before its completion). Today the dome of the church is an iconic presence on the Venice skyline, recognized for its exuberant exterior of volutes, scrolls, and more than 125 statues. The most revered image inside is the Madonna della Salute, a rare black-faced sculpture of Mary brought back from Candia in Crete in 1670 as war booty. The otherwise sober interior is enlivened by the sacristy, with a number of important ceiling paintings and portraits by Titian. On the right wall of the sacristy, which you have to pay to enter, is Tintoretto’s “Marriage at Cana”, considered one of his best paintings.