On the external wall of this little building in the area of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Revelation - not far form the Tre Fontane Abbey - in Rome, a marble memorial tablet remember the planting of Eucalyptus trees, as a remedy against malaria, carried on by the Abbey monks during the second half of the 19th Century. Particularly, the tablet remembers the action of Austrian Trappist monk Franz Pfanner. In the surroundings many euclyptus can still be seen.
The Italian inscription reads as follows: "CON LA BENEDIZIONE DI / PIO IX / NEGLI ANNI 1867 - 8 / IL P. FRANZ PFANNER O.C.R. / POPOLO' QUESTA ZONA / DI BALSAMICI EUCALYPTUS / PER DEBELLARE LA MALARIA".
A "special correspondence" from Rome by "an occasional correspondent" so described in 1881 in the British Medical Journal the results of that preventive action: "The singularly mild weather, which has prevailed since October has been very favourable to the growth of the eucalypti in the Campagna. I lately had occasion to visit the monastery of the Tre Fontane, which is at present the chief nursery whence these plants are sent out. The monastery has of late years been in the occupation of French Trappists. From one of the monks I learned that the malaria which had hitherto at this spot been singularly pernicious, has of late years become comparatively mild in type. This improvement is attributed entirely to the growth of the eucalyptus trees, which to the number of 25,000 have been planted within the grounds of Tre Fontane. The shrubs are protected by wicker-work against injury, during the first few years of growth, after which they are left to care for themselves. Those planted ten years ago have now reached a height of over thirty feet. The Trappists prepare a spirituous extract and an elixir from the leaves, both of which are strongly redolent of the odour and acrid taste of the eucalyptus. The extract they are accustomed themselves to take daily as a preventive rather than as a remedy for ague. When the attack is actually imminent, nothing is found to answer so well as quinine combined with some purgative. My informant was evidently himself thoroughly saturated with malarial poison, the virulence of which in this particular locality may be judged of by the fact, that it proved fatal to all the eighteen friars who first attempted to plant the eucalyptus in the district. As it is, the health of the fraternity has so far improved, that all thoughts of abandoning the monastery and the work have now been given up"1.
- Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (March 2010)
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