Stendhal's syndrome
n. Dizziness, panic, paranoia, or madness caused by viewing certain artistic or historical artifacts or by trying to see too many such artifacts in too short a time. Also: Stendhal syndrome.

Example Citation:
In Tuscany they have a term for it. They call it "Stendhal's syndrome" because the 19th-century French novelist is said to have been the first to write about the dizzying disorientation some tourists experience when they encounter masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.
—Phil Kukielski, "In Umbria, pottery becomes high art," The Tallahassee Democrat, September 1, 2002

Earliest Citation:
Mary came to Florence from New York to fulfill a dream. She left here after four days, all of them spent in the psychiatric ward of a hospital.

The city drove Mary mad.

But the 34-year-old teacher, on her first tour of Europe, was not an isolated case.

Crowded Florence, cradle of the Renaissance, a city where palaces and monuments submerge the visitor, where each stone has a story, each corner a legend, is literally driving some tourists out of their mind.

A team of Italian medical researchers has labeled the temporary amnesia and disorientation of these patients "The Stendhal Syndrome" after the French novelist and writer whose real name was Marie Henri Beyle (1783-1842). For decades, the malaise was known as the "tourist disease." Stendhal, visiting Florence for the first time in 1817, suffered a mild attack of the madness.
—James O'Reilly, "Beautiful and unspoiled indonesia can turn into a trial for travelers," Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1986

Notes:
In 1817, a young Frenchman named Marie-Henri Beyle — better known to us as the French novelist Stendhal — visited Florence and soon found himself overwhelmed by the city's intensely rich legacy of art and history. When he visited Santa Croce (the cathedral where the likes of Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo are buried) and saw Giotto's famous ceiling frescoes for the first time, he was overcome with emotion:

"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.''

160 years later, in the late 1970s, Dr. Graziella Magherini, at the time the chief of psychiatry at Florence's Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, noticed that many of the tourists who visited Florence were overcome with anything from temporary panic attacks to bouts of outright madness that lasted several days. She remembered that Stendhal had had similar symptoms, so she named the condition Stendhal's syndrome. (When she first applied this name isn't clear, but it may have been as early as 1979.)

Note, too, that a similar affliction is the Jerusalem syndrome (1987), which hits tourists who visit the holy city of Jerusalem and are overcome by the mental weight of its history and significance.

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