We are currently facing a terrible pandemic around the World but humans throughout history faced much worse and much more devastating epidemics.
Between 1450 and 1660 Rome suffered plagues of all kinds almost every two to three years. Large amounts of people would die. The City then was also in full expansion and each Pope used armies of artists to build up public spaces we all enjoy today as tourists. The ancient Roman Aqueducts were also rebuilt to bring clean fresh water to the City of about 120,000 people. But nonetheless unsanitary conditions existed and thus the devastating plagues.
In 1656 the latest plague hit the city during the Papacy of Pope Alexander VII who wanted to see an end to such regular pandemics, he asked Cardinal Girolamo Gastaldi to use his knowledge to find a solution. Cardinal Gastaldi had written a treatise based on ancient texts about how to contain plagues. He proposed the concept of Quarantine based on the 40 days phenomenon often referred in Biblical texts. It was effective, punishment for anyone not respecting the quarantine rules were severe and thus health was restored to the City.
If you visit Rome, Piazza Del Popolo which was designed by Bernini, it has two churches at one end of the great piazza. The one on the left is known as Santa Maria di Montesanto or the Artists Church, Cardinal Girolama Gastaldi is buried there.
Piazza del popolo, Rome and the Church of Santa Maria di Montesanto