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Manicolo (Manicomio di Genova)

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Manicolo (Manicomio di Genova) (1841 -)

Location: Via XX Settembre, Genoa, Kingdom of Sardinia

Manicolo (Manicomio di Genova)

Manicolo (or Manicomio di Genova) was the first purpose-built mental hospital in Genoa. It was a very impressive and (for its time) a modern looking hospital, composed of a large round six-storey central building, from which six two-storey wards branched out in all directions. The hospital’s foundation stone was laid in 1834, but construction was delayed by a cholera epidemic in 1835, which infected Cervetto, the hospital’s architect, among many others. The hospital was eventually opened in 1841 by its superintendent, the prominent physician Domenico Tagliaferro (1806-1865). The building was positioned close to the centre of Genoa and could accommodate four hundred patients. Tagliaferro’s immediate successor as superintendent, Dr Francesco Buffa, emphasized the importance of moral treatment and an approach of treatment which took account of the individual needs of patients.

The hospital’s panoptic shape and height was criticized at a scientific medical conference in Genoa in 1846. Whatever its architectural merits, it was felt that the building lacked functionality. Moreover, the inevitable rise in patient numbers outstripped the capacity of the building to accommodate patients in comfort. Also, due to the hospital’s urban location, the patients were afforded no opportunities for outdoor pursuits, such as farming, which were considered to be highly therapeutic. In time the building was demolished and replaced by a natural history museum.