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“At the Pomegranate” Courtyard

    Like the other courtyards in the Lazarettos, this one has two spacious porches with open spaces in the middle, as well as a window overlooking the sea.

    The courtyard porches stocked goods, mostly wool, skins, furs, and wax, and disinfection was usually performed in open spaces.

    All courtyards except the first one had names. In the 18th century, a pomegranate tree grew in this courtyard, hence the name: “At the pomegranate.”

Facchini and Disinfection of Merchandise

    The merchandise was brought into the courtyards by porters, the so called facchini, who also fumigated it. In constant danger of infection, they basically spent their entire lives in quarantine. Take, for example, the Pećarić family. Four generations of the family spent almost the entire 18th century disinfecting merchandise. At the end of the century, with the profits from the Ploče Lazarettos they built a house and bought a grassland and vineyard.

    Methods of disinfection depended on the types of merchandise. Wool was ventilated by the facchini by means of emptying the bags and stacking it in piles, which were regularly tossed, turned and moved. The furs were shaken, ventilated and moved, and skins were rubbed with cloth. Wax was submerged in regular or sea water.

Downsides of the Draught

    Thanks to the barred doors of the courtyard, as well as the window overlooking the sea, a constant stream of air wafted through, essential for the process of fumigation.

    However, the stream could easily turn into a strong draught. This happened in April of 1797. A violent storm from the sea blew off the cinders from a facchini’s pipe. The wool in the courtyard caught fire and burst into flames. Fortunately, the fire was soon put out.

Infected Ships

    At the beginning of the 19th century, several infected Ragusan ships arrived in Ragusan waters. They had most likely come from Malaga, where the plague was rampant at the time. Captains, crew members and passengers were placed in the courtyards, where gates and openings overlooking the sea were boarded up, and all passages towards adjacent porches walled off with stones and lime. They spent 80 days in complete isolation.

Courtyards: bagiafers

    The courtyard of a Ragusan Lazaretto was called bagiafer, alternatively babagiafer. It was obviously named after Baba Giafer, a notorious Istanbul prison which had a courtyard and stood by the sea. Therefore, only someone who had seen the inside of Baba Giafer could have named the Lazaretto courtyards bagiafers. The following story may give clues to that person’s identity.

    In the 1670s, a severe diplomatic conflict broke out between the Republic of Ragusa and the Ottoman Empire. The notorious Grand Vizier Kara-Mustafa imprisoned three Ragusan diplomats at Baba Giafer. They had an awful time in the prison courtyard, and described it like this: “they pulled us out of a dark dungeon and took us into the courtyard, where we were immediately approached by an executioner who threatened to beat and torture us”.

    The diplomats managed to escape torture, but they ended up spending 504 days in Baba Giafer. After a month-long journey, they finally returned to Dubrovnik. However, they weren’t allowed to go home, but rather straight to the Lazarettos, effectively back to prison. It can therefore be assumed that, cracking bitter jokes and reminiscing about their jailbird days, it was they who named the Lazaretto courtyards “bagiafers”.

    The term “bagiafer” was used as long as the Lazarettos were operational, up until the early 1870s.