Before you start reading this blog, let me put a disclaimer that this is not a work of fiction. Pure history without ta trace of doubt (mild maybe). It is the story of a serial killer Giulia Tofana who killed nearly 600 men in Renaissance Italy. Giulia Tofana ran a makeup factory that sold a deadly potion Aqua Tofana which had harmful elements like lead, arsenic, and belladonna.
The story is strange and interesting in a way that Giulia’s motive behind this deadly attempt was unusual. In those days, marriages were usually arranged by families and divorce was not a choice. No matter what the circumstances were they were forced to stay in the marriage. Domestic violence and obsessive controlling behavior were the norms in most households. The only way that could walk out of a marriage was one of the spouses’ death.
Giulia Tofana made it possible. Her poisonous concoction ‘Aqua Tofana’ helped hundreds of women murder their husbands without letting anyone know. Giulia Tofana’s magic potion kept the authorities in the oblivion for nearly fifty years. Everything was kept a mystery. It was first sold as powdered makeup and later in small vials with the picture of St. Nicholas. It was called ‘Manna of St. Nicholas of Bari’ a special healing ointment that looked like a devotional object.
All was fine until one day a client had a guilt trip while serving her husband the poisoned soup. She stopped him from continuing with the soup. He got suspicious and handed her over to Papal authorities who made her confess the truth.
Giulia Tofana’s secret was out.
Giulia, already had an idea of this ongoing trouble so she fled to the church and asked for a sanctuary. However, a rumor that Gulia had also poisoned the water made people storm the church and hand her over to the Papal authorities.
Giulia Tofana admitted her crime. She was executed in July 1659 along with her daughter and three employees. Even her clients were punished.
The legend of Aqua Tofona continued even after Giulia Tofana’s death. Even the famous musician Mozart thought he was poisoned with Aqua Tofania although it was not the reason for his death.
Interestingly, the poison was the weapon of choice not only by Giulia Tofana but by many women during the Renaissance period. Giulia Tofana’s mother was also accused of murdering her own husband.
While the legend of Aqua Tofania makes one astonished and shocked, it also makes one wonder if a simple divorce could have solved many lives. Renaissance and medieval times are probably over in many parts of the world. But in many parts, the dark ages are endless.