Venetian Epidemic

Although much more lethal than the Covid-19 that ravaged the Veneto and the world early this year (2020), the plague of 1575-6 was exacerbated both there and elsewhere by a misguided quarantine. In the Venetian archives can be found evidence of this, when a certain Rocco Benedetto gave testimony in the Venetian Senate to avoid such things if his city did not want the same devastation during a plague in 1630 as that which occurred in 1576–a week-long lockup of every family in their homes.http://venetian-bibliography. (see author Paolo Prieto) For what it did was tantamount to barbarism–throwing thousands of already infected, but unknowing, carriers into houses where the contagion spread like wildfire in such close confines. Turning homes into veritable caskets.

Ironic in the sense that Venice practically invented 40-day quarantines of both goods and people suspected of being so contaminated. That Venice pioneered the establishment of dedicated lazzaretti in their lagoons to keep all contagions at bay. And it was Rocco Benedetti’s speech which some believed kept the plague of 1630-31 from killing only 1 in 4 instead of 1 in 3 as it did in 1575-6. In effect, it might have saved over 2000 lives. But how would this apply today? you might ask. Did not the strict house-bound quarantine of millions of people work in China? It might have, I’d answer, but how many died needlessly? Would you believe what they would say to that? Exponentially, I would think, the victims’ voices silenced forever. But we can do something about it here in the USA! Trace the paths of contagion like Venice did then. Plan on where triage centers (lazzaretti) would be, large ones, and how to stock them and man them, and have tests in place to diagnose those who shows signs or tracking and get them there for their sake. And Not to their Homes, for their family’s sake. See article about how safe homes are during Covid-19 By Chris Smith


Pieter’s First Trip up the Hudson

In 1635, the trek Pieter and the Van Voorsts made up the Hudson to cut wood in the Highlands must have been a real eye-opener. Wider than any river Pieter had ever seen, as big as a lake in spots, an unbroken wilderness on both sides, painted natives the Dutch called ‘wildenfolk’ coursing downriver at breakneck speeds. But why so far north of Manhattan and the Dutch fort and cluster of houses established some ten years earlier? Because the Dutch colony on Manhattan was beginning to grow, and the most advanced windmill of it’s kind in the world sat ready and waiting (on what later came to be called Governor’s Island) to saw both pine and oak logs into planks for building ships, houses, and factories. And because Manhattan was virtually denuded of trees, save for the forest on the northwest corner reserved for the use of the wildenfolk who by now had mostly congregated up there. And yet why not just cut all they needed right across the two rivers, east and west? Because of the lack of tall straight pine in the lowlands. And the ease of transport of the cut logs downriver.  Of course, the elder Van Voorst might have had other things in mind, like trading the wampum he had procured from the natives of ‘t’Lange Eyslandt for the northern Mohawks’ still-plentiful beaver. And along the way up the Hudson, Pieter got a good education from the old man Van Voorst in the ways and means of both the wildenfolk and Dutch. For a better understanding of the cultures both native and settler see Glossary of New Netherland

Piero’s eleven month odyssey

Eleven months at sea is a long time! But true, nevertheless, as documented in his captain, David Pieterzoon DeVrie’s journal, published in 1655. Refer to my Dutch Nomenclature of Ship Terminology to better understand Piero Alberti’s caulking work on board the ship De Konink David ( the King David) on his way to America in 1634.*

‘Land of Tribute’ is the last book of my trilogy, ‘Venice, East & West.’

Guiding Light

As a zeickentrooster, the ex-mercenary old Pierre Monfoort was limited in his ministerial duties. Most importantly, he could not interpret for others what the Bible said — primarily serving by reading scripture and consoling the sick and dying.  Which he did, primarily to Piero Alberti. Although I don’t describe the core of his faith in my first book of my trilogy, ‘Alberti Due,’ (due out this year), I do in ‘Land of Tribute.’ What I left out is best summarized, I think, by Oswald Chambers in his book, ‘My Upmost for His Highest.’

Here, in the reading for May 17th, on page 99, Chambers addresses the part of Christ’s life after His transfiguration dominated by a guiding light such as no one else before or since has experienced, including St. Paul. That is not to say, though, that Christ’s example, however unique to one with such power, did not inspire the ultimate sacrifice of St. Paul and many others since, including Pierre Monfoort.


Canals and Bridges of Manhattan

            Perhaps Pieter Caesar Alberti was justified to think early New Amsterdam should have at least one or two canals like his native Venice. After all, hadn’t the Dutch considered the advantages of commerce in his native city when they laid out the ‘grachtengordel’ of Old Amsterdam? Or how wide moat-like canals could serve as protection against enemy attacks? Certainly the original planners of New Amsterdam envisioned that, he had heard more than once.  So it was with a mixture of hope and foresight that he built his first house off the two main ditches of lower Manhattan called ‘Breedegraft’ and ‘Beavergraft.’ Alas it was not to be that this indeed happened only after he had sold his house and lot after moving to the Wallabout on Long Island. Read in my chapter ‘Catalyn Tricault’ about the pleasant situation for the Governors of early New York who lived on Alberti’s former property off these tide-water ditches the English turned into working canals crossed with stone bridges.

            Click here to read about the traditional prize-fighting off the bridges spanning the canals of Venice. And stay tuned for my upcoming book ‘Pugni di Ponte,’ my second book of the trilogy ‘Este/Oeste.’ Discover the fighting culture of Venice as Piero Alberti represents the ‘army’ of his Castellani (sailors) against the ‘army’ of the Nicoletti (fishermen). Through the eyes of one of the fighters, see the very beginnings of the Italian ‘Mafia.’ Listen to the encouragement of the respected ‘reverendissimi’ and ‘generalissimi’ who both organized and directed this intermittent staged ‘warfare’ and kept the peace as the unofficial police force of Venice.

The Dutch Sith

Click here to read about the use of the Dutch sith in the early Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. And the use of salt grass which grew wild on the borders of the sea and rivers. Too bad Pieter Alberti had no idea that the sith wouldn’t work on thick and reedy salt grass the way a scythe did, and so played the fool in front of his Flemish friends who well knew the sith and mattocks worked only on wheat and such thin grasses. Chalk it up to Italian overconfidence.

Great Hurricane

Read the description here of the Great Hurricane Pieter and his friend Hendrick got caught in, that is, unless you already have. The Dutch ingenuity of saw milling really helped out the English that year. They could take the sails off the arms when high winds came up, and when it cleared, they could set the mill in whichever direction the wind came from. The English had no such mill for fifty years after 1635. The trees on Manhattan had been thinned already, by custom of the wildenfolk, to create arbors above for shade in summers – a vast ‘Central Park’ if you will, if on the rough side.  As the winds blew from the north much more than the west, the ease of transport made it an easy choice to cut up there on the cliffs over the Hudson.