Bergamo’s Lazaretto

Bergamo’s Lazaretto: Life beyond Life for 600 years

Bergamo’s Lazaretto, a silent witness to past eras and cycles of epidemics and diseases, stands as a majestic guardian of the city’s memories.

Its ancient walls tell stories of pain and hope, of scourges that have left an unforgettable mark on the course of local history.

What is a Lazaretto?

The building known as the Lazaretto was once dedicated to the confinement of people suffering from contagious diseases, in particular the plague, but leprosy as well. In this sort of temporary hospital, the sick received the little care available and spent their quarantine there to prevent epidemics from spreading.

The origin of the name can be traced back to the island of Santa Maria di Nazareth in Venice, where the first building for this purpose was created in the Middle Ages – it was known as a ‘nazaretto’ and later distorted into the term ‘lazaretto’. But the Lazaretto is not only a symbol of sadness and pain.

Over the centuries, it was also a place of hope and healing. Medical care, although rudimentary by today’s standards, was administered with dedication and compassion. And many times, despite adversity, life managed to triumph over death.

Historical background

The Lazaretto was built in the 15th century by the Serenissima Republic of Venice, to tackle the devastating epidemics that periodically plagued Bergamo, and other cities under its rule.

In those dark times, when the Black Death raged mercilessly, the Lazaretto represented the last bastion of defence against contagion.

Bergamo’s Lazaretto: things to see

The Lazaretto is a large quadrangular structure, with almost identical sides measuring 130 metres by 129, an internal garden and a porch running around the entire perimeter, supported by as many as 146 columns, which mark out the space between the cells where the sick once found shelter. There are two entrances, located on opposite sides, but in fact only one is used for access.

The Lazaretto in Bergamo is today an open-air museum, a place of memory that invites visitors to reflect on the past and learn lessons for the future. Its ancient rooms, silent corridors and empty cells tell a story of resilience and hope that continues to inspire both present and future generations.

In particular, today it is possible to visit cell 65, restored by the Bergamo nella Storia Foundation, which offers visitors a video installation that retraces the history of the plague in the city.

Concerts at the Lazzaretto in Bergamo

Picture taken from storage.ecodibergamo.it

Lazaretto – where it is located

The building stands in the heart of the city, a few steps away from the Atleti d’Italia Stadium, where Via del Lazzaretto meets Piazzale Lodovico Goisis. Not far away you will find the Gamec Gallery and the Suardi Park.

City bus lines 3, 6, 7 and 9 have a stop near the Lazaretto, while Bergamo Alta, the Upper Town, can be reached with a 10-15 minute walk.

Concerts at the Lazaretto in Bergamo

Over the centuries, the Lazaretto has been used for various purposes, including being a prison for a certain period in the 19th century – today it is an important cultural meeting space. Various concerts, events and theatrical performances sometimes take place here, particularly during the summer.

Talented artists such as Stefano Bollani, Tony Hadley, Madame and Pinguini Tattici Nucleari performed on the concert stage of Bergamo’s Lazaretto during the last season.

Associations and/or offices located inside

Today, the internal spaces of the Lazaretto have been entrusted to the management of Bergamo Infrastrutture and assigned to more than twenty headquarters of federations and associations in the Bergamo area, thus giving them a space and a place where they can meet on a weekly basis and manage and organise their activities.

Among the various organisations that have their headquarters here, there are:

  • the Associazione Sportiva Dilettantistica Runners Bergamo
  • the Bergamo Moto Club,
  • the Namasté Cooperativa Sociale.

Moreover, It is also home to the decentralised headquarters of the Circoscrizione 3 City Hall and the Lazzaretto Digital Space, a digital office and co-working space managed by the Ribes Consortium that can be used by the citizens from Monday to Friday.

The Lazaretto also includes a multifunctional sports centre with green areas, a gym with equipment, a basketball court and a volleyball court. For the use of some of these areas, a membership with Bergamo Infrastrutture is required.

 

Credits: Cover image taken from www.consorzioribes.com

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