Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 17: Venice, Part 12

March 1, 2022


Venice Civil Hospital

This is a medieval and imposing building facing the Piazza Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Before becoming a hospital, it was the Scuola Grande di San Marco (Great School of Saint Mark).

"Scuola" in Italian means "school" or "guild."

In Venice, groups or meeting places of devotees who worship the Virgin Mary or patron saints are called "Scuola."

Established in the Middle Ages, these entities continued their activities until the collapse of the Republic at the end of the 18th century.

Penetrating deeply into the middle class, craftsmen, and merchants, they united based on common places of origin and professions, functioning somewhat like mutual aid societies.

They engaged in charitable activities, such as mutual assistance at weddings and funerals, and aiding those in need due to illness or poverty.

They even built assembly halls through donations.

Each "Scuola" constructed luxurious buildings as their headquarters, featuring grand halls and chapels adorned with the extravagance and essence of art of the time.

It was so-called an upscale version of community centers.

Among them, only six were designated as "Grande" or large-scale.

  This Scuola Grande di San Marco is devoted to Venice's patron saint, Mark.

It was founded in the 13th century and the current building was reconstructed in the late 15th century.

Not only common citizens but also many nobles belonged to it.

Wealthy individuals summoned doctors to their homes for treatment and nursing until the end.

However, those who consistently needed medical care had to reluctantly leave their homes.

For the sake of such individuals, the "Scuola" transformed into the Civic Hospital.

This occurred in the early 19th century, during the era of Napoleon Bonaparte's rule.

Observing the remaining structures, we are astonished by the immense wealth and prosperity of Venice.

The elegant and beautiful façade is a collaboration between sculptor Pietro Lombardo and architect Giovanni Buora.

That features red, yellow, and green marbles embedded in white marble, known as the Early Venetian Renaissance style.

There are two rows of columns in the entrance hall, creating a solemn atmosphere along with decorated walls and floors.

The hospital faces the canal.

That has an "Emergency Boat" entrance but no ambulance entrance.

Since Venice lacks roads for automobiles, there are no ambulances.