So Pretty, It'll Make You Ill; NSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), November 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

So Pretty, It'll Make You Ill; NSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION One of BBC2's Eggheads answered the question: 'Where did Stendhal's Syndrome originate

* as 'Venice'. I thought it was in Florence. Who is correct

STENDHAL'S Syndrome occurs when an individual is exposed to overwhelming beauty, usually in the form of many works of art, typically in an art gallery, or when he or she is overwhelmed in the presence of beauty in the natural world, such as a stunning sunset or view.

Affected individuals might experience a number of symptoms including physical and emotional anxiety, rapid or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, nausea, dissociation, temporary amnesia and paranoia, and even hallucinations.

The affliction is named after 19th-century French author Henri-Marie Beyle (1783-1842) better known by his penname Stendhal (after Stendal in Brunswick, where he once fell in love). He described his experience of the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence in his book Naples And Florence: A Journey From Milan To Reggio (hence the alternative name Florence Syndrome).

When Stendhal visited the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Niccolo Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo Galilei are buried, and saw Giotto's famous frescoes for the first time, he was overcome with emotion.

He wrote: 'I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty ... I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations... Everything spoke so vividly to my soul.

'Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call "nerves". Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.' It wasn't until 1979 that Italian psychiatrist Dr Graziella Magherini, chief of psychiatry at Florence's Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, named the condition Stendhal Syndrome. She recorded the regularity with which tourists came to the hospital suffering from dizzy spells and disorientation after admiring the statue of David, the masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery and other treasures of the Tuscan city.

Based on her recollection of reading Stendhal's account, she named the condition. She later documented in her 1989 book, La Sindrome di Stendhal, 106 similar cases admitted to the hospital in Florence between 1977 and 1986.

Dr Ian Smith, Cambridge.

QUESTION Why has the village of Llansan(t)ffraid-ym-Mechain recently added a 't' to its name

THE village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain in Powys, mid-Wales, on the confluence of the rivers Vyrnwy and Afon Cain, takes its name from the church of Saint Ffraid, this being the Welsh version of Saint Bride (or Brigid).

Known for her good works as the Virgin of Kildare, she set up a monastery in Ireland in the late 5th century. One version of her legend has her floating over to Wales on a sod of turf and landing at Porth y Capel, near Holyhead, before taking her mission through the country.

The ym-Mechain part of the name refers to the village's location in the medieval cantref of Mechain, distinguishing it from several other Llansantffraids in Wales. In July 1998, Powys County Council received a letter from the Welsh Language Board stating that the Ordnance Survey wished to see consistency in the use of placenames. At the time, the village was Llansantffraid (with the 't') and had been that way since 1850, but several residents had long complained this was incorrect. …

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