An itinerary entirely dedicated to Manzoni and to his masterpiece: "I Promessi Sposi" (The Betrothed).
External facade of the church (by Saggittarius A, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
On the same street stands the Church of San Gregorio, representing the burial place of the Lazzaretto. Named and celebrated in the Promessi Sposi by Manzoni, the church bordering the northern wall of the Lazzaretto served all the plague-stricken and dying patients. It was located near the Cemetery of San Gregorio, also known as “Foppone di San Gregorio” or “Porta Orientale”, from which Renzo entered while looking for his beloved Lucia. This was one of the five cemeteries of Milan.
The place is presented for the first time in Chap. XI, when Renzo and Lucia arrive in Milan after leaving their hometown village (near Lecco).
“The Bethrooted” is a novel of daring adventures between two lovers in Lombardy, Italy, during the 17th century CE. The writer, who lived about a century and a half after the setting of his book, brilliantly describes ways of life, traditions, historical facts and scenes from everyday life, allowing us to mentally and emotionally identify with his story.
Renzo and Lucia are the two young protagonists of true and pure love. Natives from a small village overlooking the Alps north of Milan, the couple soon recognise the difficulty of their bond due to external causes. The village lord, Don Rodrigo, is an evil man, and he becomes infatuated with the young girl. The two lovers find themselves bewildered and powerless in the face of his game of power, and due to fears and moral exhaustion, they flee far away from the lord’s clutches. They secretly make their way to Milan but soon have to separate due to the gruelling chase of Don Rodrigo.
Pressed by externalities and hunted down by the lord’s men, Lucia finds refuge at the convent of Monza, a town near Milan. Here, the young lady can stay quietly protected in a sacred place, untouchable from the lusts of any man, including the evil Don Rodrigo. The monastery allows only women, and Renzo escapes into the neighbouring city of Milan. He soon finds himself caught up in the city’s general unrest and is tormented by a tenacious and malicious Don Rodrigo. The young man does everything he can to survive and go unnoticed.
However, the situation is even more difficult than expected. Renzo is faced with the wicked game of the lord and significant external problems due to the war between the French kingdom and the Holy Roman Empire that devastates northern Italy. In addition, pestilence and famine are currently frightening the region, complicating the already miserable situation even more. Due to soldiery movements in the area, Milan is about to go through a dark period, and black clouds loom over the city. Of all the misfortunes, the heaviest is the arrival of the plague, brought among the ranks of the Germans ‘Landsknechts” soldiers. On their way to Mantua, they pass near Milan, infecting the countryside. The contagions spread to the city, where chaos breaks out.
Consequently, the young Renzo wanders around Milan, trying to remain incognito from Don Rodrigo’s men, until he falls victim to a riot in the city centre that we will explore later on. Chased also by the police, Renzo has no option but to flee, finding shelter in the vicinity of Bergamo, a city located northeast of Milan. At this point, the evil lord has lost track of Renzo, but knowing Lucia’s whereabouts, he asks for help from an acquaintance who can get the girl out of the convent. The plan is straightforward: abduction and rendition.
However, this character, repenting, does not complete the task and lets Lucia escape. She finally flees and takes temporary refuge far from the problematic situation hiding at a friend’s house.
We may now continue to the next step and better explore the dreadful Lazzaretto.