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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Christ`s Hospital

As an antidote to the post below, it is sometimes useful to consider what the Church has achieved in the past.

In an era of socialised medicine and cradle -to -grave social services, it is hard to recall the work carried out by Church agencies before the State took control.

One of the sights of Rome which impressed the diarist John Evelyn in the seventeenth century was Christ`s Hospital in Rome, situated on the Via Triumphalis, near Monte Mario.Via Triumphalis (now called Via Trionfale) is a long Roman road of starting in the neighbourhood of the Vatican City , and goes up the small hill of Monte Mario and ends at the Via Cassia in the Giustiniana quarter. The road was so called because from the time of Titus, it was used for Triumphal processions.

Evelyn wrote:

"25th January.1645

Hence, we went to see Dr. Gibbs, a famous poet and countryman of ours, who had some intendency in an Hospital built on the Via Triumphalis, called Christ's Hospital, which he showed us.

The Infirmatory, where the sick lay, was paved with various coloured marbles, and the walls hung with noble pieces; the beds are very fair; in the middle is a stately cupola, under which is an altar decked with divers marble statues, all in sight of the sick, who may both see and hear mass, as they lie in their beds. The organs are very fine, and frequently played on to recreate the people in pain.

To this joins an apartment destined for the orphans; and there is a school: the children wear blue, like ours in London, at an hospital of the same appellation.

Here are forty nurses, who give suck to such children as are accidentally found exposed and abandoned. In another quarter, are children of a bigger growth, 450 in number, who are taught letters. In another, 500 girls, under the tuition of divers religious matrons, in a monastery, as it were, by itself. I was assured there were at least 2000 more maintained in other places.

I think one apartment had in it near 1000 beds; these are in a very long room, having an inner passage for those who attend, with as much care, sweetness, and conveniency as can be imagined, the Italians being generally very neat.

Under the portico, the sick may walk out and take the air.

Opposite to this, are other chambers for such as are sick of maladies of a more rare and difficult cure, and they have rooms apart. At the end of the long corridor is an apothecary's shop, fair and very well stored; near which are chambers for persons of better quality, who are yet necessitous. Whatever the poor bring is, at their coming in, delivered to a treasurer, who makes an inventory, and is accountable to them, or their representatives if they die.

To this building joins the house of the commendator, who, with his officers attending the sick, make up ninety persons; besides a convent and an ample church for the friars and priests who daily attend. The church is extremely neat, and the sacristia is very rich. Indeed it is altogether one of the most pious and worthy foundations I ever saw. Nor is the benefit small which divers young physicians and chirurgeons reap by the experience they learn here amongst the sick, to whom those students have free access. "