Friday, March 6, 2009

Vampires in Venice

(Venice, Italy) I have been threatening to write a book called Vampires in Venice for a long time now -- in fact, I just read the first Stephenie Meyer Twilight book to prepare. Vampires are very big in my genre; it seems like every YA writer has climbed on the vampire bandwagon. Whenever another vampire book arrives on the scene, I think, HHmmph. You guys don't know nothin.' We got real vampires over here, baby, not some weeny American vampires. Our vampires are thousands of years old. They are professionals, and do not seek the spotlight like the Hollywood vampires do. Our vampires are distinguished, love to listen to classical music and have learned how to drink red wine instead of blood.

Now, today, after 500 years, we finally have some proof:

(ANSA) - Rome, March 6 - The remains of a 'vampire' have been found in a grave in Venice lagoon, an Italian forensic anthropologist has claimed.
That image you see is an ANSA photo depicting the proper way one must impale a vampire -- through the mouth with a brick, not through the heart with a stake as they do in America. Because, of course, the point is to get them to stop sucking blood, which is difficult to do with a brick in one's mouth.

It was thought that these vampires, who were buried next to the bodies of plague victims, fed on their dead neighbours until they felt strong enough to rise from the grave and begin feeding on the living, perpetuating the cycle of contamination.
Gravediggers were therefore responsible for identifying possible vampire women among the dead by signs of shroud-chewing around the mouth and impaling them with a brick to stop them feeding, according to Borrini.
The woman's skeleton was found in mass grave of victims of the Venetian plague of 1576 - in which the artist Titian also died - on the small island of Lazzaretto Nuovo. Venice authorities had designated the island a quarantine hospital in 1468 following an earlier plague epidemic.

Click here to read the entire article:

In the article, you will notice that the plague was blamed on the female vampires, not on the males. That is an outright Venetian myth designed to confuse you. It is an old Venetian trick to say one thing, but do exactly the opposite. In fact, it's perfectly legal to behave in such a fashion, and if you can get away with such behavior, you get extra bonus points. Believe me, there are just as many male vampires as there are female vampires. In fact, I would say males outnumber the females 3 to 1.
[UPDATE APRIL 3, 2017 - That link no longer works, nor do many others on this dusty post. However, there is an update to the story on the National Geographic site.]

The Plague of 1576 is the plague that inspired one of Venice's most beloved holidays and famous churches -- Redentore. From the Comune's website:

The plague In the three years between 1575 and 1577 the Serenissima was tormented by the plague: aided by the high density of the population, the disease spread through the city, causing terrible losses. Almost 50,000 died, which was more than a third of the city's inhabitants.

That image you see of the man with a hat and a beak and a wand is a plague doctor. The beak was stuffed with medicinal herbs, etc. to keep the doctor from catching the plague.

The vow On September 4, 1576, the Senate decided that the Doge should announce the vow to erect a church dedicated to the Redentore (Redeemer), in return for help in ending the plague.

The end of the plague On July 13, 1577, the plague was declared definitively over and it was decided that the city's liberation from the terrible disease should be celebrated on the third Sunday in July.

Ah, those were the days! When doctors ran around dressed as birds with long beaks, and gravediggers smashed bricks into the mouths of female vampires to stop them from munching on dead plague victims. Just think: we still celebrate the Redentore holiday today!

You regular readers will remember we had a little discussion about the Church of Redentore before, which was designed by Palladio. The blog was entitled (by strange coincidence): "Where's the Blood?"

The vampire depicted in the top photo was discovered out on the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo. You must take Vaporetto 13 to get there, and if you think I am joking about the number, I am not. You can wander out there and visit the island, which is, in reality, full of precious archaeological discoveries.

Guided tours to Lazzaretto Nuovo, which enable the visitor to trace the historical and archaeological route of the boundary wall, and to enjoy the natural beauty of the site along the “barena”, the typical venetian sandbank, take place from April to October on Saturdays and Sundays at 9.45 am and 4.00 pm (corrispondence with Actv line 13, from Venezia – Fondamente Nuove at 9.00am and 3.30 pm; from Treporti at 9.07 am and 3.22 pm).

You can even take an archaeological vacation. It sounds so fascinating, I think I'll head out there some day soon and report back. Here's their website:

And don't worry. Venetian vampires do not drink the blood of the average tourist. After consuming too much McDonald's and other fast food, humanity's diet has gotten so tasteless their blood is almost undrinkable for our poor vampires.

Venetian vampires prefer to snack on your soul.
Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - Venice Blog


  1. This is such a cool post...I'm linking to you tomorrow.

  2. Thanks, Jill. All links are greatly appreciated.



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