Insanity lands on the island

Maniacs recluded in San Servolo during the eighteenth century

Registro settecentesco (1725/1812)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

First madmen kept in San Servolo Island

In 1725, as we discover from the annotations of an ancient register, the first mentally ill patient is hospitalized in San Servolo together with the soldiers of the Military Hospital

Graffito (XIX secolo)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

He is the very illustrious Mr. Lorenzo Stefani, led to this island by order of the sublime Council of Ten, as a madman   

Vista da San ServoloMuseo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

During the first half of the eighteenth century, four other madmen are confined to the island, all registered as Nobil Homini (noblemen) 

Illustrazione da testo di chirurgia (1758)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

There are still no diagnostic categories to apply to the mentally ill. The recurring terms to define them in San Servolo's documents are: mad, maniac, hypochondriac, discolo

CancelloMuseo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

Rebels

San Servolo is considered a safe and discreet place in which to lock up people of a certain rank, crazy or simply uncomfortable or rebellious...

Abside (XVIII secolo)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

Like, for instance, Domenico Micheli, who was sent to San Servolo as punishment with suspension of the mass

Documento di contabilità (1791)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

Rascals

The term discolo (rascal) defined an insolent, immoral person, unable to behave appropriately. There were nine rascals recluded in San Servolo, three of whom managed to escape from the island  

San Filippo Apostolo (XV secolo)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

Indigent insanes. The "Fusta", a floating prison

Indigent insanes, on the other hand, for the whole course of the eighteenth century ended up in the public fusta, a ship anchored in the San Marco basin that serves as a prison and criminal hospital

Strumenti di contenzione (inizio XX secolo)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

The birth of psychiatry

It was the French doctor Philippe Pinel, director of the great Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris since 1795, a son of the Enlightment culture, who first distinguished mentally ill from criminals, freeing them from their chains and trying to cure them

Biblioteca di San Servolo (XIX secolo)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

With Pinel and his pupil Esquirol, alienistics was born at the end of the eighteenth century, a new branch of medicine that deals with diseases of the mind      

Illustrazione da testo di chirurgia (1758)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

They also developed the first classification system for mental illness, which included four diagnostic categories: mania, melancholy, dementia and idiocy

Lettera della Municipalità provvisoria (1797)Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

Napoleon

In 1797 the Napoleonic troops conquer Venice, putting an end to an eleven-century long history during which the Serenissima was one of the richest and longest-lived powers in the history of Europe

CancelloMuseo del Manicomio di San Servolo - La follia reclusa

The Asylum for indigent insanes

The same year, a provision of the Napoleonic Government establishes that indigent insanes are brought and treated in San Servolo at public expense, starting the process of transforming the military hospital into an insane asylum

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