Punishment for Milan’s Plague

This is a miscellaneous tract from the university of Chicago, and a fascinating one on many levels

The great plague of Milan in 1630 was alleged to have been set in motion by the actions of a Milanese barber and the Commissioner of Public Health. The two were executed. The officials of Milan then erected a column and performed one of the last recorded damnatio memoriae. the column was blown down in a storm 150 years later, It had inscribe d on it:

Here, where this plot of land extends, formerly stood the shop of the barber Giangiacomo Mora, who had conspired with Guglielmo Piazza, Commissary of he Public Health, and with others, while a frightful plague exercised it ravages, by means of deadly ointments spread on all sides, to hurl many citizens to a cruel death. For this, the Senate, having declared them both to be enemies of their country, decreed that, placed on an elevated car, their flesh should be torn with red-hot pincers, their right hands be cut off, and heir bones be broken; that they should be extended on the wheel, and at the end of six hours put to death, and burnt. Then, and that there might remain no trace of these guilty men, their possessions should be sold at public sale, their ashes thrown into the river, and to perpetuate the memory of their deed the senate wills that the house in which he crime was projected shall be razed to the ground, shall never be rebuilt, and that in its place a column shall be erected which shall be called Infamous. Keep afar off, then, afar off, good citizens, lest this accursed ground should pollute you with its infamy. August 1630.

For starters this happened during the age of witch trials, and the ‘deadly ointments’ has echoes of witchcraft, as does the punishments, yet no such mention is made, so MIlan had a more rational response than much of the rest of Europe. And yet their fury also echoes the punishments meted out for witchcraft. There is a real sense that evil had seeped into the building and even into the earth, so this had to be not just destroyed, but extirpated.

We are far more civilised now, aren’t we? Yet the house of Fred and Rosemary West, the murderers of young girls was demolished as nobody would live in it. A horrific murder house in Bristol many years ago proved to be so unpopular that the whole row of houses was eventually demolished as no one would live there. Were people afraid of the ghosts of the dead or that they might somehow become evil themselves?

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