Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 19: Venice, Part 14

May 1, 2023


Wells (Pozzo)

In the city of Venice, there are old wells scattered here and there, known as "Pozzo."

However, these wells don't have natural spring water.

The city of Venice, artificially built on the tidal flats, faced not only the challenge of dealing with high tides but also the urgent issue of securing drinking water.

Being located in the Mediterranean coastal area, which receives a relatively high amount of rainfall, they considered using rainwater.

They applied the technology developed for salt field cultivation.

Firstly, they deeply excavated the central area of open spaces into as wide a square shape as possible.

The inner part was solidified with clay in a mortar shape, and stones were laid on the bottom of the mortar.

Then, a large amount of sand was filled on top, and finally, it was paved with cobblestones.

Rainfall around the well permeated into the sand, and the filtered clean water collected at the bottom.

This water was then pumped up for use as drinking water.

Various carvings adorned the wells, becoming decorations for the squares.

Wealthier individuals constructed similar wells in their home courtyards.

These wells are no longer in use today and are usually covered with metal lids.

As for sewage, including excrement and urine, it was naturally discharged into the sea or canals!


San Rocco Great Unity Association (Scuola Grande di San Rocco)

In the 16th century, a meeting hall for the San Rocco believers' association was built in the Renaissance style and later used as a hospital.

The current space is filled with Tintoretto's over 70 works, including overwhelming ceiling paintings and enormous oil paintings, inspired by the Old and New Testaments, created over a period of more than 20 years.

San Rocco (Latin: "Rochus," English: "Roch") was born in late 13th century in Montpellier, southern France.

At the age of 20, he lost both parents.

Then, he gave away all his possessions to the poor and embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome.

During his journey, he devoted himself to caring for plague patients.

When he made the sign of the cross above the patients, a miraculous healing of the plague occurred.

In Rome, he cured a cardinal and even had an audience with the pope.

Three years later, on his way back, Rocco himself contracted the plague.

He retreated to a remote forest.

He suffered from thirst, and miraculously, a spring appeared when he prayed.

When hungry, a dog brought him bread.

After resuming his journey and returning to his hometown, Rocco was imprisoned as a suspicious-looking man.

Five years later, he died in prison.

Today, he is revered as the patron saint against the plague.

The "thigh plague mark" and the "dog carrying bread" are symbols associated with Saint Rocco.