Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala

Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala (12)

The current museum complex of the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala hosts a variety of interesting displays.

Formerly, these buildings were a large hospital, one of the first in Europe, since its beginnings date back to the 9th century. It was dedicated to the citizens, but with special attention to the poor, the abandoned children and the pilgrims who came to the Duomo, usually on the way to Rome. 

The hospital itself is a work worthy of a visit to admire the decorations and the structure. Moreover, after some intense restoration work, still not considered fully completed, the hospital opened as a museum in 1995, whereas galleries and levels with different permanent and temporary exhibitions have been gradually added.

Just as you enter, one of the first frescos you will see here is Meeting in Porta Andrea, designed by Domenico Beccafumi in the 16th century, known for its range of colours. A little further on, to the left, you have the Pellegrinaio, or Pilgrim's Hall, where the beds of patients were, until only a few years ago, and whose walls were painted with gorgeous frescos in the mid-15th century. Many of them, probably the richest and most detailed, are the work of Domenico di Bartolo.

On another level, you will find documentation and original sculptures from the Fonte di Gaia by Jacopo della Quercia and also the Oratorio di Santa Caterina della Notte, decorated mainly in the 17th century by Rustici and Rutilio Manetti.

One of the last museums to be incorporated in this dazzling complex was the archaeological museum. Although it is small, little-known exhibits of the Etruscan civilization, such as bronzes, terracotta funerary urns and excellent bucchero alabaster vases, a type of typically Etruscan black ceramic pieces.

If you can, we strongly recommend you visit the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala and, apart from admiring its frescoes and other works of art, try to imagine what the daily life of one of the first hospitals in Europe was like.

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