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Florence Under SiegeSurviving Plague in an Early Modern City$
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John Henderson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780300196344

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300196344.001.0001

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Lazaretti and Isolation: ‘More Feared than Death Itself’?

Lazaretti and Isolation: ‘More Feared than Death Itself’?

(p.183) Chapter 7 Lazaretti and Isolation: ‘More Feared than Death Itself’?
Florence Under Siege

John Henderson

Yale University Press

This chapter looks at the role of Lazaretti in Florence in the campaign against plague. In contrast to other cities, such as Venice and Milan, which constructed purpose-built isolation hospitals, Florence relied on adapting existing convents, churches, and patrician villas on the outskirts of the city. The chapter questions how far the epithet ‘more feared than death itself’ can legitimately be applied to these institutions. What makes the Florentine case so remarkable is the survival of the daily correspondence between the hospital directors and the health board. These letters provide a unique and moving insight into the way the Lazaretti were run, the medical and spiritual medicines prescribed, and the challenges thrown up by the admission and treatment of well over 10,000 people, more than 10 percent of the city's population. The chapter then argues that, while mortality may have been high, the extraordinary investment of time, personnel, and finances underlined the belief in the efficacy of these institutions as a way to solve the war against plague.

Keywords:   Lazaretti, Florence, plague, isolation hospitals, hospital directors, health board, mortality

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