12 December 2020

Loredana Marcello – Dogaressa of Venice

Doge’s wife developed treatments for plague sufferers

Loredana Marcello developed  treatments for plague
Loredana Marcello developed 
treatments for plague in Venice
Loredana Marcello, who became a Dogaressa of Venice as she was the wife of Doge Alvise I Mocenigo, died on this day in 1572.

A scholar and writer, Loredana developed treatments to help people suffering from the horrific symptoms of the plague. These were put to good use during the deadly outbreak that brought Venice to a standstill in 1575, three years after her death.

Loredana was the daughter of Giovanni Alvise Marcello. She received a good education, along with her sisters, Bianca, Daria and Maria. They were all considered by the nobility in Venice to represent the ideal of the educated Renaissance woman.

Loredana wrote letters and poetry and also studied botany, under Melchiorre Giulandino, a custodian of the Botanical Garden of the University of Padua and the first to occupy the chair in botany at the university.

As part of her research into plants, Loredana developed formulas and recipes to help plague sufferers, but unfortunately all her written work has been lost.

She married Alvise I Mocenigo in 1533. He was elected Doge of Venice in 1570 but Loredana’s time living in the Doge’s Palace didn’t last very long as she died on 12 December 1572.

Tintoretto's painting Doge Alvise Mocenigo and Family before the Madonna and Child sees Loredana seated on the right
Tintoretto's painting Doge Alvise Mocenigo and
 Family before the Madonna and Child
According to John Edgcumbe Stayley in his book The Dogaressas of Venice: The wifes of the Doges, Loredana is remembered as being ‘remarkable for her constancy, both in the experiences of adversity and in the distractions of prosperity, judicious and discreet in the supervision of her household, reverent and charitable in her church duties, benevolent to her relatives and her dependents, in a word, she was a most virtuous and noble Princess.’

It has been suggested Loredana died from the plague herself, but this is not certain.

One of the worst outbreaks of plague in the city’s history began in the summer of 1575, nearly three years after her death, and killed a third of the city’s 170,000 inhabitants before it petered out in the middle of 1577.

The Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo, where Loredana is buried
The Basilica di San Giovanni e
Paolo, where Loredana is buried
Venice went into lockdown, using similar measures to the ones currently being used to stop the spread of Covid 19.

Preaching and church services were stopped, shops, inns and taverns were closed and people were not allowed to congregate in the streets.

Venice became eerily quiet with vessels going back and forth to the lazzaretti, the plague hospitals out on the islands, being the only traffic seen out in the lagoon.

Although Loredana’s research into plague treatments is now no longer in existence, it went on record that her treatments were used on plague sufferers during this outbreak.

Loredana’s husband was the first of three doges named Alvise Mocenigo.

He became severely depressed after Loredana’s death and committed suicide in 1577 by hanging himself.

He was interred in the Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo, the traditional burial place of the doges, in a tomb alongside his wife.

The Doge's Palace occupies a position next to St Mark's Basilica overlooking the lagoon
The Doge's Palace occupies a position next to St
Mark's Basilica overlooking the lagoon
Travel tip:

The Doge’s Palace, where Loredana lived for the last two years of her life, was the seat of the Government of Venice and the home of the Doge from the early days of the republic. For centuries this was the only building in Venice entitled to the name palazzo. The others were merely called , short for casa. The current palazzo was built in the 12th century in Venetian Gothic style, one side looking out over the lagoon, the other side looking out over the piazzetta that links St Mark’s Square with the waterfront. The palace opened as a museum in 1923 and is now run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.

The Botanical Garden of the University of Padua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Botanical Garden of the University of Padua
is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Travel tip:

It is possible that Loredana Marcello may have visited Padua’s Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico) as it was created in 1545. Thought to be the world’s first botanical garden, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The garden, which still belongs to the University of Padua, is in Via Orto Botanico close to Prato della Valle, a main square where there is a tram stop. When it was founded, the garden was devoted to the growth of medicinal plants that could provide natural remedies. The garden was designed by Bergamo architect Andrea Moroni as a circle enclosing a square divided into four quadrants, in which the plants were grown. Normally the Botanical Garden is open to the public every day but it is currently closed due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Also on this day:

1685: The birth of composer Lodovico Giustini

1889: The death, in Venice, of poet Robert Browning

1901: Marconi receives the first transatlantic radio signal

1957: The birth of novelist Susana Tamaro

1969: The Piazza Fontana bombing


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