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Aug 2012

Italian RenaissanceFrance Synonymous With Syphilis

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Neurological Sciences, Mangone, Italy.

Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(8):938. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2012.1467

During the Italian Renaissance, writers used the term France as a synonym for syphilis. For example, Agnolo Firenzuola1 (1493-1543) wrote: “Lady, is it true or is it a humbug, that you are in France?” Confirmation of the meaning of this use of France was found in the “Purgatorio delle cortigiane” in 1546 by the poet and painter Maestro Andrea,2 who was from Venice. The purgatory described was not the purgatory of Catholicism but the St James Hospital, in Rome, called the Home for Incurables, which was built in 1515 by Pope Leo X for those suffering from male incurabile, or syphilis.3 The hospital was described by Andrea as follows:

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