This year marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Raphael Santi, the greatest Renaissance master, along with Leonardo and Michelangelo. The artist died on the day of his 37th birthday - as was commonly believed, from syphilis or another sexually transmitted disease. However, new investigations made by Italian doctors suggest that the cause of the death was completely different, reports AFP.
Raphael died in March 1520. As the legends say, the reason was the genius's immoderate sexual appetite, which made him sick with syphilis. The Pope, afraid of losing such an invaluable master, sent the best doctors of the city to him. They diagnosed a fever caused by "excess humor" or blood, and prescribed bloodletting - probably through incisions on the body or hirudotherapy. This fatally weakened Raphael, and he died.
Researchers from the University of Milan Bicocca, who published the work in the Internal and Emergency Medicine journal, believe that the cause of death was different - extensive pneumonia, like the modern coronavirus disease. In March, Rome was still cool, and the artist probably caught a cold during his frequent visits to his mistresses and fell ill with pneumonia.
According to the researchers, the doctors at that time already knew about the dangers of bloodletting in the treatment of infectious diseases, but in this case they acted on the basis of misinformation. A medical error also led to death, and the fact that Rafael hid important information from doctors - he did not admit that he went out at night.
“From what we know, we can conclude that Raphael died of a lung disease very similar to the coronavirus we have seen now”, - the researchers say. Archival documents show that the artist's illness “lasted 15 days; Raphael was calm enough to put his affairs in order and confess his sins. "From the same documents it follows that Raphael had "an acute illness characterized by severe and prolonged fever". This is not like the symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, nor the viral hepatitis manifested by jaundice and other signs of liver failure, nor any other infectious disease: at that time in Rome there was not a single case of the epidemic typhoid or plague.
The version of Italian doctors is not contrary to the testimony of Giorgio Vasari. Vasari himself considered the cause of Raphael's death to be his debauchery, but his description of the disease is quite consistent with the picture of pneumonia: “Raphael quietly continued to engage in his love affairs, indulging in these pleasures beyond all measure. And then one day after spending time even more lecherous than usual, it happened that Rafael returned home in extreme heat, and the doctors decided that he had a cold, and since he did not admit his profligacy, he was inadvertently opened with blood, which weakened him to a complete loss of strength, while he just needed their reinforcement".