The millenary history of the Island
LAZZARETTO NUOVO THROUGH THE CENTURIES
Situated at the very entry of the Lagoon (3Km north-east from Venice, just in front of St. Erasmo littoral) the island was used for strategic reasons, controlling the water ways to the inland since ancient times.
Archaeological artefacts found on the site have proven the presence of humans since the Bronze Age. The first written document (a notarial act referring to the Island as Vigna Murada, a walled vineyard) dates back to 1015 a.C.
During the Medieval Age the island was the property of S.Giorgio Maggiore monks, who constructed a church there dedicated to St. Bartolomew.
In 1468 by decree of Senate of Serenissima, a lazaret was found and the island started to be used as a quarantine and decontamination site. Its task was to prevent from contagion: ships arriving from all over the world were required to unload their cargo in order to protect Venice from the diseases carried on board. Tripulation as well couldn’t leave the island till it was proven that they were not infected. The lazaret was named “Novo” (new) to distinguish it from the existing one called “Vecchio” (old), set close to the Lido, where evident cases of plague were admitted.
The chief building on the island, the XVI century Tezon Grande, measures over 100mt in lenght. It is the second largest public building in Venice (second only to Corderie dell’Arsenale, Arsenale’s ropery) and it still preserves many writings and original wall paintings. These artefacts record in extraordinary details the presence of merchants, “bastazi” (porters) and guards of Magistrato alla Sanitá (Healty authority of Serenissima). These documents describe arrivals of vessels and trades from Constantinople, Nauplia in Peloponnesus, Alexandria, Cyprus, seals and symbols, names of doges and sailors.
During the XVIII century, the island’s medical use came to an end. Under Napoleonic rule, and later under Austrian control, the it was used as part of the Lagoon military defence system ”the Fortifications". Large Tezon’s arches were walled to convert the building into a powder magazine; the boundary wall was fortified with slits, guard-house, great Istria-stone bastions and external terraplains. The island was then connected to the bridgehead of the nearby St. Erasmo and to the battery of Maximilian Tower, which used to control the harbour’s entrance to the Lido.
The island was used by the Italian Army until 1975. Today it is supported by Italian Ministry of Arts and Culture, and it is one of the few islands in the Lagoon of Venice that was abandoned and has now returned to Venice’s cultural arena thanks to the work done in the latest years under Monument & Fine Art Office’s and Magistrato alle Acque patronage.