Number of days in the 14th century that ships arriving in Venice from cities affected by the plague were required to sit at anchor before landing. This practice was called “quarantine,” a word derived from the Italian quaranta giorni which means 40 days. By way of explaining the 40-day mandate, scholars point out that the number 40 has significant cultural meaning–plenty of Biblical events draw upon the number, such as Jesus’ fast in the desert, Moses’ time on Mount Sinai, and the Christian observation of Lent.

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