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Sigmund Freud : our heart lies in Venice


 Octobre 2012                    André J. Fabre

Sigmund Freud was born in a small town in Moravia, Příbor [1] then Austro-Hungarian possession and studied medicine at the University of Vienna, where he graduated in 1881.

It was disciple of a famous Viennese psychiatrist Theodor Hermann Meynert but quickly decided to come to La Salpetriere, then Temple of European psychiatry, in the Department of Prof. Jean-Marie Charcot.

After his return in 1896, he began to develop psychoanalytic doctrine and vocabulary.

Freud had a lifetime love for Italy, as expressed in his voluminous correspondence : more than 20,000 letters, postcards and telegrams sent to most of the family: his wife, Martha Bernays, his brother Alexander, his sister Rose and their children


As soon as 1885, Sigmund Venice mentions in a letter to his wife that he got an invitation from one of his colleagues at the Salpetriere, "I wish we could accept an invitation to stay in one of the palaces Venice ".

Thereafter, come countless travels to Italy [2] with at least six trips can be eight, according to some biographers, Venice.


 1895 (August 25 to 30) First trip to Venice in the company of Alexander, the younger brother

Sigmund was not yet 40 years old when he made his first trip to Venice, from August 23 to 2 September 1895. He was with his younger brother Alexander, and had left his pregnant  wife Martha in Austria. The two brothers staid at the Casa Kirsch, today Metropole hotel on Riva degli Schiavoni

His letters to Martha, are loaded with enthusiasm:

"Sunday, August 25, 1895, My dear love, We all agreed that you would not get me detailed descriptions [of Venice]: The trances that capture the visitor prevent this. We are in great shape, busy all day walking, we boating, admire, eat and drink. Each morning we will go to the Lido twenty minutes swimming in the sea, with underfoot, a delicious sand. Yesterday, the weather was cool and the sea a little rough, but today it started to get very hot. Yesterday we climbed the Campanile of St. Mark [3], we walked to the Rialto throughout the city, which has enables us to see the most amazing things, we visited the Church of the Frari and Scuola San Rocco, enjoying a glut of Tintoretto, Titian and Canova, we stopped four times at Café Quadri on the Piazza San Marco, have written letters, haggled purchases, and two days were filled as six month. Mosquitoes have well demonstrated their existence. Needless to say, I'm already looking forward to hear from you "

The same day, Freud sends a postcard to tell his emotion to discover Venice in a long gondola ride "bizarre fairy tale, totally oniric"

Monday 26: "Morning at the Lido for a swim and visit the city of Venice: San Marco Tower and panorama of the Rialto." Followed by visits to the churches of Venice, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, with Monteverdi's tomb and statue of St Jean baptite by Donatello in the chapel of the Florentines. Another visit: Santa Maria Assunta church, said church Gesuiti,:., Then Scuola San Rocco to see the flight into Egypt by Tintoretto and many other masterpieces "The two brothers have barely time to stop at Café Quadri Piazza San Marco in order to stock up on postcards"

Tuesday 27: Excursion to Murano to see the glass blowing. Sigmund buys a mirror for Anna.

Wednesday 28: visit of Chioggia to see the church of San Martino in Sottomarina

Thursday 29: Sigmund complained in a letter to his wife that "the overwhelming heat wave prevents any motion"

"Friday 30 in the morning: walk to the fish market. Visit the two churches of Giudecca: Church of the Redeemer and the Church of the Old Maids. evening gondola ride on the Grand Canal. Venice throws all of helplessness. We are very happy here. I write chamber view postcard of the window on the Riva degli Schiavoni, where I stayed with the head of Casa Kirsch. It is a sign of insomnia. I am writing to the window with the most beautiful view in the morning of S. Maria della Salute and San Giorgio Maggiore."

"30 Friday afternoon I just found your letter on my door ...... "

 1897 (August 25 to September 2)

 This is the first trip to Venice with Martha

Arrival in Venice Visit the Academia delle Belle Arti. Meeting with Freud's sister, Dolfi Adolphine [4] (1862-1942) who was also visiting Venice.

In a letter to his friend Fliess: "So, in a dream I saw a skull and I thought it was a pig skull. Maybe it has something to do with your wish, two years ago, that I could find, as did Goethe,  on the strand of Lido, a sheep skull ".

Freud leaves Venice to go visit Toscana  and Florence

 1897 (September 6): Freud sends a card from  Siena to his friend Fliess : "Dear Wilhelm, as you know, I came to Italy in search of a punch of "lethe" (one of the five rivers of Hadès, Hell in Antiquity). Here and there I take a good deal. of wonderful memories !"You get here an astonishing dose of beauty and urge of creation, at the same time a huge ration of grotesque and perverse psychology…I have much to say on that but it has to remain between us only .... Regards, Sigm

 1898 again a travel to Italy 

with Martha : they came from Dalmatia via Trieste and reached, Switzerland, via Venice

 1902 (August 28 to September 15)

 Travel to Rome Naples and Venice. Here occurs a surprising episode : Sigmund can see the ruins of the campanile collapsed which had just colllapsed six weeks earlier on 14 July 1902. They visit again the Basilica San Marco: "the Basilica is more beautiful than ever , reminds me of  a young widow who has just  lost her husband …we get a cure of sea bath at the Lido "

 March 1913, the last trip to Venice

Sigmund is, this time with his daughter Anna, the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology, new married. They spend  one week in Venice, staying at the Hotel Bristol


Streets and canals make  Venice a city both aquatic and terrestrial, with a network of endless crossing trails

 Beneath the surface of water lies an abyss.

In Venice, the foundations of Venice are hidden from the surface, Freud was aware of this queet know where Venice is not the case rests imagine what is below, but you must drain the waterways, which in through the metaphor, I would equate to know the history of the subject, namely the Pre in the subject to re-read its trajectory.

The dredging of channels: to clean out a channel, it is necessary to close both extremities, empty all water , at that time is visible on the muddy ground the strangest objects: rusty daggers, old shoes and car wheels.

A punch of lethe :

"In Venice wrote Sigmund Freud to Martha after one of his first trips, you can drink a punch of Léthé." Léthé wasone of the five rivers of Hell, sometimes called "River of Oblivion" as Lethe flowed slowly and silently. For poets it was the peaceful "river of oil", separating the underworld of the outside world . The course of the river was so peaceful that no one could hear a noise.

Venise, the  city emerging from the lagoon has the same power than the Léthé : anyone who drinks its water forgets his past…



[1] Aprésent based in the Czech Republic, now in Freiberg Mähren

[2] VeniseNotre heart tends to South Unser Herz zeigt nach dem Süden

[3] In 1902 the Campanile has collapsed on the stage Sansovino. Everything was rebuilt in 1904, meticulously respecting the original monuments

[4] Freud did not maintain a very close relationship with his sister. Dolfi Adolfine had died a tragic fate deported to Theresienstadten 1942

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Date de dernière mise à jour : 30/07/2013

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