Dubrovnik: The medieval City Designed Around Quarantine

Dubrovnik: The medieval City Designed Around Quarantine, by Kristin Vukovic.

The word “quarantine” has Italian roots: in an effort to protect coastal cities from the Black Death ravaging 14th-Century Europe, ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days (quaranta giorni) before landing, a practice that eventually became known as quarantine – derived from ‘quarantino’, the Italian word for a 40-day period. …

The city’s Great Council passed a ground-breaking law in 1377 to prevent the spread of the pandemic requiring all incoming ships and trade caravans arriving from infected areas to submit to 30 days of isolation. The legislation … stipulated that anyone coming from pernicious places must spend a month in the nearby town of Cavtat or the island of Mrkan for the purpose of disinfection before entering the medieval walled city. …

Dubrovnik was the first Mediterranean port to sequester people, animals and merchandise coming from infected areas by sea or land, keeping them separate from the healthy population, while Venice stopped all ships and trade, halting life in the city. The Ragusan Republic imposed very strict punishments and fines for offenders who did not follow the 30-day quarantine law (trentine, as the term was written in a document found in the Archives of Dubrovnik, dated 27 July 1377). In the beginning, quarantine was 30 days, but it was eventually prolonged to 40 days as in Venice. …

“Initially, quarantine accommodation was poor, improvised, in huts, tents, and sometimes in the open air. The benefit of huts was that they could easily be burnt down as a disinfection measure,” [Ana Bakija-Konsuo, MD-PhD] said.