Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 26: Florence, Part 6

December 1, 2022


Misericordia Charitable Emergency Clinic

In Christianity, there is a belief in practicing both "inner faith (love for God)" and "outward actions (love for one's neighbor)."

Regarding love for one's neighbor, it teaches us to practice "mercy" or "Misericordia" as a concrete action.

The "Seven Acts of Mercy" mentioned in the Bible are as follows:

1.      Give food to the hungry.

2.      Give water to the thirsty.

3.      Provide shelter to travelers.

4.      Clothe the naked.

5.      Visit and care for the sick.

6.      Visit prisoners.

7.      Bury the dead.

In medieval Europe, as Christianity spread, numerous "brotherhoods" emerged as volunteer organizations.

One of the oldest among them is the "Misericordia (Brotherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy)," founded in 13th-century Florence.

In the 14th century, Misericordia, alongside other brotherhoods like "Or San Michele" and "Bigallo," became an important charitable organization.

From the 14th century onward, during intermittent outbreaks of the plague, Misericordia devoted itself to acts of mercy.

Many believers who cared for the sick during these times fell victim to the plague themselves.

In the 16th century, at the behest of Francesco de' Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Misericordia was given a building facing the square in front of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, a prime location in Florence.

During both World Wars, Misericordia transported wounded soldiers and provided emergency medical care.

Even in modern times, Misericordia continues its medical and service activities based on Christian values.

They not only help the sick and the poor but also provide comfort to prisoners before their execution and assist impoverished women with the marriage expenses.

In front of the headquarters facing the Cathedral Square, Misericordia's ambulances and staff are always on standby.

A sign reads, "Serving for Eternity."

I, too, displayed a sense of "mercy" and made a modest donation (10 euros, approximately 1,300 yen at the time).

Though not in Florence, I will serve for eternity in Tsujido, Fujisawa City, Kanagawa, Japan.