Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 31: Florence, Part 11

May 1 2023


Santa Maria Nuova Hospital

 Santa Maria Nuova Hospital is the oldest hospital in Florence and the largest one in the Tuscany Region.

This hospital is located right behind the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

It has been functioning as a magnificent hospital for 700 years in the same building, which is very typical of Florence.

 In the 13th century, it was founded by a banker named Folco Portinari, who was the father of Beatrice.

Beatrice was loved by Dante Alighieri, the famous poet who wrote "The Divine Comedy" . 

He decided to build the hospital after being convinced by his housekeeper Mona Tessa. 

Her tomb is still in the hospital's courtyard.

 In the 14th century, a detailed regulation consisting of 34 articles was created to manage and operate the hospital.

This regulation is considered a model for today's hospital organizations. 

 Over time, the hospital became rich through donations and gifts.

It has been decorated by Florence's artists.

In the 15th century, Pope Martin V visited the hospital.

 During the outbreak of the plague (black death), the isolation ward was established.

It was the first one in the world.

A swaddled doll of a child is also on display.

 In the underground of the adjacent church, there is a room where Leonardo da Vinci conducted dissections in the 16th century, and the "bathtub" where he washed dead bodies.

 As mentioned in the "Milan" edition in February 2021, Leonardo da Vinci was born in the village of Vinci near Florence in the 15th century.

He left remarkable achievements in various fields.

He is most admired as a painter of "The Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa".

 However, it should not be forgotten that he was also a great anatomist. 

At the time, the Church prohibited dissections, but Leonardo, who believed that anatomy was essential for studying painting and sculpture, performed 32 dissections himself.

He is the founder of modern anatomy.

He performed dissections in hospitals in Milan and Rome.

In Florence, he also dissected bodies that had been brought to this underground room at Santa Maria Nuova Hospital.