Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Father Joan-Gilabert Jofré and Nuestra Señora de los locos e inocentes

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida 1863-1923
El padre Jofré protegiendo a un loco/ Father Joan-Gilabert Jofré protecting a mentally ill man 1881
Oil on canvas 154 x 205 cm
Diputación de Valencia. Valencia. Spain

Nostra Dona Sancta dels Folls Innocents e Desamparats (Nuestra Señora de los locos e inocentes), Valencia

On Friday, February 24, 1409, Father Joan-Gilabert Jofré, (June 24, 1350 – 1417) a religious Mercedarian Father was on his way from the convent of the Plaza de la Merced to the Cathedral of Valencia. The principal activity of the members of the Order of Mercy, founded in the year 1218 by Saint Pedro Nolasco, was to rescue Christians who were prisoners of the Muslims.

Father Jofré was supposed to give the sermon at the Cathedral two days later.

On his way there, probably on the street of Martín Mengod, the ancient street of the silver workers, next to the church of Santa Catalina, a great uproar caught his attention.

A group of children were hitting and making fun of a mentally ill man, shouting «the mad man, the mad man!» in accordance with the then very extended belief that the insane were possessed by the devil.

He intervened between the aggressors and the assaulted. He protected the man and took him to the convent of the Order of Mercy, where he was given shelter and cure for his wounds.

The next Sunday in the Cathedral, Father Jofré devoted a part of his sermon to preach against «the irrational persecution especially crueller the more innocent, impotent and irresponsible the victims were.»

The Book of Becerro records part of the Sermon:

«In this city, there are many and very important pious and charitable initiatives.

However, one very necessary one is lacking, that is, a hospital or house where the innocent and frenzied would be drawn together because many poor, innocent and frenzied people wander through this city.

They suffer great hardships of hunger and cold and harm, because due to their innocence and rage, they do not know how to earn their living nor ask for the maintenance they need for their living.

Therefore, they sleep in the streets and die from hunger and cold and many evil persons, who do not have God in their conscience hurt them and point to where they are sleeping, they injury and kill and abuse some innocent women.

It also occurs that the frenzied poor hurt many of the persons who are out wandering through the city. These things are known in the entire city of Valencia.

Thus, it would be a very holy thing and work for Valencia to build a hostel or hospital where such insane or innocent persons could be housed so that they would not be wandering through the city and could not hurt nor be hurt».

The sermon was attended by Lorenzo Salom (or Saloni), who, together with other merchants and craftsmen provided the necessary funds to carry the request out. The others were: Bernardo Andreu, Juan Armenguer, Francisco Barceló, Pedro de Bonia, Sancho Calvo, Jaime Domínguez, Fernando García, Pedro Pedrera, Estaban Valenza and Pedro La Plana (Sempere).

Shortly after, the General Council of the city approved the initiative.

The asylum was located in what had been a house with a garden outside of the city, close to the Torrent gate, which from then on became known as the «Puerta de los Locos» (the Gate of the Insane). The building work began on May 9th 1409

Pope Benedict XIII authorised the hospital in an Order issued on May 16, 1410 which provided that that the hospital should be dedicated to the Innocent Martyr Saints.

On June 1, 1410 the hospital was inaugurated with the name of Hospital d’Innocents, Follcs i Orats under the protection of the Our Lady, Sancta María dels Innocents [Nostra Dona Sancta dels Folls Innocents e Desamparats (Nuestra Señora de los locos e inocentes)].. Citizens immediately started to call it «Hospital de Nostra Dona Sancta Maria dels Innocents (Our Lady St. Mary of the Innocents).

On August 29, 1414, the Lloable Confraria de la Verge María dels Innocents, (the Praiseworthy Brotherhood of the Virgin Mary of the Innocents) was created. The confraternity consisted of one hundred priests, three hundred women and three hundred men and their role was mainly to collect funds for the running of the hospital.

The members of the confraternity, extended their activities to take care of the funerals of all the insane, of the members of the brotherhood and to provide spiritual consolation to those sentenced to death and to provide Christian burial after their execution.

Father Jofré had placed an image of Our Lady in a small chapel built next to the Hospital, where the Capitulet, the members of the brotherhood had been meeting since 1411

The image would become the Mare de Deu dels Folls, Innocents i Desamparats (Our Lady of the Lunatics, Insane and Forsaken). This is how the cult of the people of Valencia came about for what was to become their Patron Saint.

The image was venerated in this same site until it was moved to the Cathedral in 1487.

On April 21, 1885, Pope Leo XIII granted a papal bull by which he named Our Lady of the Forsaken as Patron of Valencia.

On October 15, 1921, Pope Benedict XV, on the request of the cardinal Enrique Reig Casanova, granted the privilege for the coronation of the image

The hospital in Valencia was not the first hospital for the refuge of those with mental illness. However it would appear that it was the first psychiatric hospital of the world which was the first to remove the chains and establish moral treatment with exercises, games, occupations, training, diet and hygiene in comfortable and adequate buildings

The originality of the initiative of Jofré is manifested in the name chosen: Hospital of the Innocents, Insane and the Lunatics, which we now would call mentally retarded, psychotics and demented.

Instead of the traditional terms of mania, furiosus, mente captus (he whose mind has been kidnapped), inops mentis (he who has mental deficiency) new terms are introduced: Innocent is the child and the adult who, being insane, has no more responsibility than child, and lunatic (from Catalan orat, and orat is from the Latin word aura, «air», «wind»), he who has lost his reasoning.

The hospital of Valencia was followed in a short period by others of the same nature in Spain and in Spanish America. The insane who up to then had wandered through the fields, who had been housed in some monasteries or who lived and died outside of the walls of the city, began to receive attention.

The Hospital of Valencia was very famous until the building was destroyed the fire in 1545 and the gradual decline of the city of Valencia.

However the concept was established and thrived elsewhere such as the Hospital de Nuestra Señora de Gracia in Saragossa which thrived until August 3, 1808 when it was totally destroyed by the French bombardment of the city and later by the sale of the church properties under the secularisation policies of the Spanish State especially those of Godoy of 1798 and Mendizábal of 1836