Anatomical Theatre in the ancient San Gallicano Hospital

It was March 1725 when Pope Benedictus XIII set the cornerstone of a new hospital in Rome, Trastevere quarter, named "Santa Maria and San Gallicano".
At the beginning of the XVIII century it became a university teaching place, specialized in dermatology.
At that time an Anatomical Theatre, where classes and practice on dermatology were to be held, was built inside the hospital.
It was commissioned by Pietro Odescalchi and realized by Architect Giacomo Palazzi in 1826, during the papacy of Leone XII.
The Theatre consisted of a rectangular room, with the anatomical table in the middle, and two hemicycles: the first one was used as a waiting room and the other one contained eight display cases for anatomical preparations. The anatomical table doesn't exist anymore with the only exception of the base stone.
By an artistic point of view, the most important elements of the theatre are the "stucco friezes": they were sculptured by Ignazio Sarti and represent legendary events and figures at the origin of medicine.
Along the walls of the semicircle parts, there is described the Asclepius snake landing on the neighbouring Tiber Island: the snake, symbol of medicine, is depicted in all the fresco paintings of the theatre too.
Along the side walls two series of medallions portray eighteen historical personalities of the Italian Medical School, among them: Marcello Malpighi, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, Costanzo Varolio and Bartolomeo Eustachi.

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Main entrance of the hospital in Via San Gallicano 25

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Internal view: the Anatomical Theatre


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The marble base stone


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Emicycle : in the lower part the snake legend, in the upper part fresco paintings


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Detail of a wall painting


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Medallions representing historical personalities of the Italian Medical School


  • Photos by Ludovica Puri (February 2012), courtesy of IFO (Istituti Fisioterapici Ospitalieri)
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