20 June 2013

How they died in Venice, Part Two

Detail from icon of church of S. Giorgio dei Greci.
Georgios Klontzas, 16th C. Complete icon, 47 x 71.5 m.
Museum of the Isituto Ellenico, Venice.

The necrology for the Greek community in the parish of S. Antonin lists 1766 names. I worked with the first 500 of them, from 1569 through 1655. One of the things you see is an increase in the annual listings, so that by the end of the 500, it appears that the Greek community of the parish has doubled in size.  Events in Cyprus and the current war in Crete would have been major contributions to that growth.

One of the things I noticed, in trying to relate names and identify families,  is that in the very few instances where the register records the deaths of husband and wife, there is a 17-20 year difference in ages. Of course, this does not allow for second or third marriages, but the register would not have information from which you could identify second marriages.

Another gender discrepancy is in the
diagnosis of vechiezza (old age) – as the cause of death. Nearly 4 times as many women as men die of old age. Vechiezza appears at age 70 – appropriately. What I find particularly interesting here is that a number of these elderly women are identified as calogerà (nun). Of the 13 nuns in the necrology, 8 are aged 80 and over.   Forty-nine women die after the age of 70, while only 32 men do. Three people live to be more than 100: I suspect that means "very very old and no one really knows how old," but someone might have had a record. 

* 1570, 4 March. Dona Marula, a Greek from Corfu, about 70, sick 10 days with fever, no doctor. * 1579, 2 April. Madona Anna, Greek, aged 80, ill since August from vechiezza; treated by the excellent Mr. Fabritio Rizi.
* 1630, 12 October.  The widow of Todero Profetti (see below), age 85, from vechiezza after 3 days.
There is a large gender discrepancy in deaths at younger ages. In their 20s and 30s, 65 men died compared with 36 women.  In their 40s, a few more women than men died, and then in their 70s and 80s, 25 men died compared with 33 women.  A great deal could be done with statistics from these 1766 entries by someone who actually knows how to work with statistics.

* 1594, 12 July.  Matteo, son of Agapito, carpenter, age 16, fell from a balcony in the night.
* 1649, 8 May. Gerolemo Karamani from Kefalonia, passenger on the ship Isabetta for Zakynthos. Went on the boat to Malamocco yesterday, found drowned today, about 30.
* 1651, 19 September.  Sacari da Schiera of Thessalonike, about 32, from a compound fracture, had fever for 6 days.  Doctor, the excellent Cortacci; surgeons, Sr.i Orfeo and Zuane Bongioti. 

The leading diagnoses for the first 500 reported deaths are: fever (110); consumption/etico (37); Catarrh/cataro (31); ponta (22); typhoid/febre maligna (17). I have put below a list of all the diagnoses I found.  Here are a few more of the dead.  I keep thinking of what Makryannis said: "He was only a Greek: there was no one to ask where he had gone."

* 1621, 3 January.  Zorzi from Cania, about 40, brought into the church of the Greeks murdered.
* 1621, 12 March. Sr. Todaro Profetti, age 75, bed-ridden for several years with gout. 
* 1630, 29 September.  Sr. Calogera, age 25, ill 5 days with malign fever and upset stomach.  Doctors were Agapito and Morattini. 
* 1640,  27 May.  Yanni, son of the late Piero from Cyprus, shoemaker, about 34, killed on the bridge of the Madonna on the way to S. Antonin. 
* 1643, 13 November.  Dona Marietta, Greek slave, age 70, sick for a month, died from catarrh.

Elizabeth was severely depressed:
* 1613, 12 May.  The magnificent Sr.a Elisabetta Cubli, wife of the magnificent Sr. Lorenzo, age 56, ill for 8 months with a melancholic humor; was seen by the most excellent Galdino and Savoian.

I have wondered if Yanni was a suicide:
*1613, 30 May.  Yanni from Nauplion, age 65, went swimming yesterday evening and drowned.

Diagnoses in death reports, 1569-1655.
cascata poplectica
cataro & vechiezza
cattaroi di gambe
dolor colici & febre
dolor de cuore per pauro
dolor di vita
ettico & anco
ettuci & sciatica
febre & fredo
frebre maligna
febre maligna & ponto
ferito, amazzato
ferito, archibusada
ferito – molte
ferito – taglio & febre
ferito di testa

flusso di sangue
flusso di sangue
lepre & febre
mal della lova
mal di marea
mal di pietra
mal d'orina
mal in gamba
humor malinconici
malaria – febre quotidiana
malaria – febre terzana
malatia longa
male interno
mazuco & petechie
morbo Gallico & febre
morte subitanea
natta sulla testa

piaghe & cancrene alli piedi
porzano in stomaco
resipilla nella facia
schena & febre
siro & malcaduco
smilza & febre
strettura de peto
tossicato & febre
tumor & febre
variole & stariole
variole & febre

Οι Αποβιωτηριες Πραξεις Ελληνων στο Αρχειο του Ναου του Αγιου Αντωνινου Βενετιας (1569-1810) /
Gli atti di morte dei Greci nell'archivio della chiesa di Sant'Antonin di Venezia (1569-1810).


  1. Maybe many of the nuns lived to old age because they hardly ever gave birth?

    Thank you for this interesting blog! I found it while looking for information about Anna Notaras. I got interestesd in her when I read Mika Waltari´s Dark Angel, and did some googling about the era.

    Katarina Koskivaara

  2. That explanation won't work because I have death rates for a Catholic convent in Venice & there are quite a few for women 18-30. I can't think that RC nuns gave birth & Greek nuns didn't. I am quite sure that the Greek community treated convents-monasteries as the Palaiologoi did, and as modern Greeks do -- as a place to retire to and be cared for, whatever the religious reasons.

    Convent of Corpus Domini –
    under the age of 30 10 or 43%
    aged 31-50 8 or 34.5%
    aged 51-79 3 or 13%
    over 80 2 or 8.6%

    from Life and Death in a Venetian Convent:
    the Necrology of Corpus Domini 1395-1436, Daniel Bornstein


I will not publish Anonymous comments.