47. Island of The Dead

07 Mar

FACT: Many interesting things can be said about Venice, but one of them is outside of its main body, the Isola di San Michele, an island completely surrounded by high walls and water. Since the french occupation of Venice, it was decreed that burying the dead in the city was unhygienic, because the rotting corpses spread disease through the groundwater. So in 1807, the Isola di San Michele became the cemetery for the whole of Venice.

The island was actually formed by the joining of two smaller islands in 1837 and the walls were extended to surround the whole island, the walls were there to keep the inhabitants in, as they were prone to escaping and corrupting Venice. I’m talking about criminals, not zombies, for the island also served as a prison in its earlier years, before the number of bodies increased rapidly. By the turn of the 20th Century the island was acting as the main cemetery for the city, prisoners were relocated. Many years later the law of burying dead Venetians was abolished, but the bodies continued to arrive.

The custom was so embraced by Venetians that the practice still goes on today and the islands interior is quite a sight to see. The whole place is extremely organised, rows upon rows of tightly packed headstones line the island as well as impressive monuments and marble-topped crypts. The surprising thing about the island is actually how, pleasant it is. It plays host to the oldest Renaissance church in all of Venice and soft-footed Venetians maintain the expansive green lawns and giant, majestic cypress trees.

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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Trivia


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