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Ospedale Santo Spirito in Saxia

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Ospedale Santo Spirito in Saxia (727 -)

Location: Lungotevere in Sassia 3, Rome, Papal States

Ospedale Santo Spirito in Saxia

The Ospedale Santo Spirito, situated close to the Vatican, was the first hospital to be founded in Europe. Its history dates back to the year 727, when the Saxon King Ina founded the ‘Schola Saxonum’, a place where pilgrims were welcome to stay. The building was destroyed by fire in 1198 and was subsequently rebuilt by Pope Innocent III, after which it became a refuge for paupers, orphans and prostitutes. Between 1471 and 1478, a number of additions were made to the building to the designs of the architect Baccio Pontelli: the Corsia Sistina (two enormous wards with a total length of 120 metres, containing frescos depicting the history of the hospital) and Tiburio (a central dome). In the sixteenth century the building was enlarged again by the addition of the Palazzo del Commendatore (designed by Giovanni Lippi, alias Nanni di Baccio Bigio), and enlarged once more in the eighteenth century, when a museum of medical history was established on the site. The hospital also boasted an important library (the Biblioteca Lancisiana, founded in 1711) and a dispensary. In the second half of the nineteenth century, two of its wards were re-named after Lancisi and Baglivi, who were among the hospital’s most eminent doctors. Today the hospital building is in multi-purpose use as a museum exhibition space (for the Museo Storico Nazionale dell’Arte Sanitaria), a conference centre and concert hall, under the management of Giubilarte LLC, a private company that concentrates on the re-use of monumental historic buildings.