Venice Archeoclub, a non-profit association dedicated to the preservation of cultural property, over the years has set up many activities to protect and promote the Venetian historical and cultural legacy, with a special reference to Lagoon territory, and, since 1987, it contributed to the rebirth of the Island of Lazzaretto Nuovo – new lazaret -, in the Northern Part of the Lagoon.
Many are the treasures “still too much forgotten” gathered in the last forty years in the restored rooms of Lazzaretto Nuovo, built in 1468 (40 years after the erection of the Lazzaretto Vecchio – old lazaret), by the Doges with the intent to cope with the black plague epidemic. Cristina Giussani, member of the Archeoclub and owner of the ‘Mare di Carta’ – a bookshop specialized in maps and books of local history -, said to Corriere: “Here is one of the most interesting chapters in medical history. Venice’s one was the first government in the world that imposed a quarantine for anyone who wanted to enter the city.
It was a cosmopolitan reality, an open and tolerant maritime city. (…) But people understood that it was necessary to isolate the sick, to expose men and goods arriving from abroad to fresh air, before allowing them to arrive at our docks.” A chapter in medical history that contributed to write one on sailing and shipbuilding techniques. In fact, on the peeling walls, it is still possible to see the sketches of rowing ships, galleons with square sails, typical Venetian galleasses designed also for shallow waters, together with the messages written by the crews forced to wait their turn before they could access the city.
Many writings are in Ottoman mixed with the symbols of the Empire, others in classical Arabic. But there are also the names of the crew members of a Cypriot vessel landed in 1569, and many well recognizable and repeated coats of arms of the various merchants who gave their goods to be fumigated with aromatic herbs that were said to be used to eradicate the disease. In a room there are also some tiles protected by a wooden canopy that, apparently, are the last remnants of one of Marco Polo’s houses. Outside, sheltered from the walls, that were strengthened for military use during the Napoleonic and Austrian occupation, there are plenty of ancient Roman statues, sarcophagi, and columns.
Venice Archeoclub also organizes international archaeological summer camps for young archaeologists on Lazzaretto Nuovo.