Tuesday, February 28, 2017 /
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The plague and the recovery of the Ghetto

The plague and the recovery of the Ghetto

The isolation of the ghetto and the hygiene norms imposed by Jewish ritual slowed down but did not prevent the spread of disease through the community. The Lido cemetery still contains a gravestone laconically marking the mass grave of the victims with the words Hebrei 1631. By the time the plague was over, Venice had lost 50,000 of its 150,000 inhabitants and the economy was devastated.

The ghetto recovered relatively quickly. The population numbers swelled with the arrival of East European refugees fleeing the Cossack massacres. Then in 1633 the Ghetto Novissimo was added to the ghetto to provide housing for the richer Levantine and Sephardic families. In fact, the decision by the Cinque Savi all Marcanzia to allow the richer Jews more decorous living-conditions was motivated by the desire to attract more Sephardim to the city and thus give new impetus to the ailing Venetian economy.

However, neither the wealth of the Sephardim nor the fleets of the various Treves and Vivantes were enough to alter the destiny of the Serenissima. Bled dry by its wars against the Turks, Venice gradually declined until it only had a peripheral status in world commerce, especially since new geographical discoveries had shifted the focus of trade from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

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