Day 36The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
Chapter 28 (to end)
March 28, 2023 by Michael F. Moore
The lazaretto, a living hell, whose name is taken from the Venetian island of Santa Maria di Nazareth, which in antiquity was called “Nazarethum.” A cure worse than the disease it sought to contain.
“No one should be surprised by the spike and predominance of the death rate in that enclosure, which took on the appearance and, for many, the name of plague.”
As we shall see, the authorities were reluctant to admit the existence of plague in the early stages, a phenomenon with which we are sadly, tragically, familiar.
The Spanish occupiers had moved to keep the French out of northern Italy without prior authorization from Emperor Ferdinand (remember that both Spain and the Holy Roman Empire were ruled in that period by the Hapsburgs). Now the imperial troops are arriving, bringing with them looting, destruction, and the plague.
“Finally, they would start to leave, and be gone. In the distance, you could hear the sound of the trumpet and drums dying down, followed by hours of terrified silence. And then, an accursed new beating of drums, a new blaring of trumpets, would announce the arrival of another contingent. Finding nothing more to plunder, the newcomers laid waste to whatever remained with even greater fury, burning the empty casks and doorways to rooms where nothing was left, then setting fire to houses themselves. And with even greater rage, of course, they mistreated the people, and so from bad to worse, for twenty days, as many days as there were contingents in the army.”
A side note: Manzoni relies on the accounts of two chroniclers of the era, Tadino and Ripamonti. Ripamonti was reportedly the ghostwriter for Cardinal Borromeo, who had him locked up so that his secret would not get out.