Plague and Quarantine in VeniceHistorical Curiosities
Plague and Quarantine in Venice
The Redeemer Festival in Venice is definitely one of the most awaited moments in the city. On the third Saturday in July, Venetians, students and tourists wait for the fireworks in St Mark's basin, along the banks or on board colourful boats set up in an ad hoc arrangement for the evening.
In reality, the Redeemer Festival is a reminder of a terrible incident that struck the city in the summer of 1575. It was a terrible epidemic plague that caused 50,000 deaths in two years and nearly one out of three Venetians. On this occasion, like previous epidemics, the government tried to stem the contamination with a special quarantine.
The first originated in Ragusa (Dubrovnik), but in Venice, the authorities had already banned ships suspected of infection entering the port. The boats then had to stop at the Customs (now home to the Pinaut collection) or, if considered dangerous, they were sent to the island of Lazzaretto, where they had to wait for 40 days.
This period of 40 days has no value from a scientific point of view, but stems from the widespread belief in the ancient world that the number 40 represented a significant period, especially of spiritual preparation, purification and penance. In the Judeo-Christian tradition there are various examples of such periods: the flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights, for a similar period Moses listened to the words of God on Mount Sinai, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert (an event mentioned in the Christian Lent , a period of preparation for Easter) and 40 days after the Resurrection He ascends to heaven.
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