Florentine Hospitals and Works of Art in the Renaissance: Curative and Devotional Role

John Henderson


At the beginning of the 16th century Florence had about 35 institutions which were described by contemporaries as hospitals. In common with many other large Italian cities in the period,these spedali included smal hostels which provided temporary lodging for travellers and pilgrims,houses for widows and large institutions for the sick poor and orphans.  Each institution of whatever size shared a common role, that to care for the body and save the soul of the sick poor. This dual mission led to the construction of some of the largest architectural complexes in the Renaissance city. Hospitals such as Santa Maria Nuova and the Innocenti in Florence were well known in Italy and abroad, in the same way as Santo Spirito in Rome, the Ospedale Maggiore in Milano and Santa Maria della Scala in Siena. Like many other public buildings, such as churches and government palaces, the function of the hospital was also reflected in the organisation and design of its space. The design of hospitals and their dec-orative programmes reflected their function and the complex relationship between the medical and the spiritual care of patients. 

Key Words: Hospitals - Florence - Italian Renaissance

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