Vampires in Italy

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In Italy, the vampire phenomenon took on a modern identity when a “vampiric plague” hit Serbia and other lands in Eastern Europe in the 17th century. Italians contributed to the animated international debate that began on the nature of this phenomenon, which ultimately contributed to and inspired 19th century vampire literature. Within the debate various positions reflective of different theological and ideological positions were articulated throughout the centuries.

As the vampiric plague began, a Franciscan from Pavia, Ludovico Maria Sinistrari (1622-1701), included vampirism in a study of demonic phenomena, and offered a theological interpretation of them. Far from the contemporary rationalism and the Enlightenment that emerged in the following century, he though of vampires as creatures that had not originated from Adam. While they had a rational soul equal to humans, their corporeal dimension was of a completely different, perfect nature, which is why he enforced the idea that vampires were creatures that parallel humans rather than opposite, underground beings.

A modern view of vampirism in Italy began with the work of J. H. Zedler, which saw vampirism as a superstition used to explain what were in reality diseases. Similarly, in 1743, Cardinal Giuseppe Davanzati noticed that the belief in vampires mostly occurred in rural and popular areas of the world and labeled vampirism as the fruit of the imagination, arguing that the belief was not found in the metropolitan areas of western Europe.

Neverless, the phenomenon of vampires became more widespread in the mid-18th century throughout Central and Eastern Europe.