Saint Lazzaro of Armenians


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Among the few smallest islands inhabited and kept in excellent conditions, inside Venice Lagoon, there is the Saint Lazzaro of the Armenians one. At first it was used as a hospital for the admission od lepers; when the disease disappeared the island was abandoned and it remained desert for about two centuries, until some Armenian priests who had escaped from the Turks took refuge there (beginning of 1700). History says that a monk put to flight, called Manug di Pietro, (in Armenian Mechitar, the Consoler), founded a congregation around which many of those who, like him, had to escape Turkish persecutions, gathered together at the beginning of the Nineteenth century.

They acquired the island in concession; this is an example of the religious tolerance granted by the Republic of Venice, largely repaid during a long time. The Saint Lazzaro of the Armenians island collects some works of incalculable value, by well-known artists such as Tiepolo and Ricci. Lord Byron stayed here many times and there is an extremely rich library with rare manuscripts. The Mechitarista Museum of Saint Lazzaro keeps archaeological finds of Armenian, Greek and Indian art, besides several objects of Armenian religious art of the Seventeenth and the Eighteenth centuries (jewellery, pottery) and manuscripts. We want to signal an Egyptian mummy dating back 3.500 years ago (one of the best maintained mummies in the world), an Egyptian statue representing a cat dating back 4.000 years ago and a Tibetan gilded table for prayers. Moreover the typography created in 1789 is operating: it can press in many oriental languages.

The island was not invaded by Napoleon because it was considered a literary academy; nonetheless it is said that on the island the Armenian priests hoisted the flag of the Sultan, with whom the Emperor had become allied. In any case he respected the religious community, and this is the important thing.