It is not possible for me to explore the ancient alleyways of Alfama without conjuring up images of the Black Death. The crumbling architecture and the dark and narrow streets echo the sorrow of past contagions.
In 1505, Lisbon was being ravaged by the plague, which had arrived by ship from Italy. The King and his court were forced to flee the city. The site of São Roque, outside the city walls, (the contemporary, “Barrio Alto”) became a cemetery for plaque victims. The São Roque (Saint Roch) Church – is the patron saint for those who suffered from the plague. This is the geographic location I chose for my piece entitled Pestilence. Although trash is left out in the streets nightly, there is no evidence of the rats that were once blamed for the sweeping epidemic that left countless bodies in the streets, much like garbage is left today. These unfortunate rodents were only half of the equation, the other half, though a fraction of the size was the true perpetrator. The flea - the demonic hitchhiker. For this painting I placed a flea on top of a blood stained backdrop of the bricks in front of the Igreja de São Roque church, the Black Death burial grounds of medieval Lisbon.