This abandoned building in Lecce (Via Gioacchino Rossini 1) hosted OPIS's (Ospedale Psichiatrico Interprivinciale Salentino) head office for many decades and dates from the XVII Century. It was built by Ferrante D'Aragona and was initially used as a convent. In 1652 the convent was closed by the Pope and the building was later acquired by the Alcantarine Fathers, a Franciscan congregation born in Spain. During the XVIII century the building was used to give hospitality to beggars and, at the same times, a part of the structure was rendered at the Agriculture School. The official sale occurred on 23 September 1870. The convent was sold to the Province of Lecce when a law in 1866 denied religious congregation the right to own property. In January 1895 the restoration, which would turn the building into a psychiatric hospital, began.
THE FASCIST PERIOD
The works finished in 1900: the building could give host up to 200 patients. The Provincial Psychiatric Hospital of Otranto's land became operational in 1901. With the advent of Fascism the province of Otranto was splitted into three provinces: the Jonio's one, Lecce's and Brindisi' s, which all shared ownership of the asylum. In 1931 OPIS was officially opened and it was the first Psychiatric Hospital in the area to adopt medical skills and therapies then considered innovative such as the electroshock and the ergotherapy.
THE SECOND WORLD WAR
During the Second World War the OPIS went through a period of decline which ended only with the arrival of the Allied forces and through the hard work of the provincial administration that allowed OPIS and its employees to play an important role at an international level. In 1948 the OPIS Director, Umberto De Giacomo, was questioned by the “Consiglio Direttivo della Società Italiana di Psichiatria” about possible treatments of “schizofrenia”. The same Director was well received as a speaker at two international conferences in Paris (1950) and Taormina (1951) too.
'960 E '970 YEARS
OPIS introduced leisure and ergo-therapeutic activities, working together with students and interns from the high school of social services. The hierarchical structure of the hospital was reinforced : at the top there was the Director, followed by head doctors, doctors, the overseers and the nurses. No level could be by-passed, for this reason for example the overseer couldn't speak with the Director or with the head doctor but only with the doctor and the same was for all of the other categories. After the “Law Basaglia Law” in 1978 the OPIS was forced to interrupted his activity. Doubts over the real usefulness of psychiatric asylums and treatments for patients had already arisen.
The final layout of OPIS sees the central pavilion, called “Villa Salento”, where there were the sick people that came from rich families. There were also other three pavilions for men, two for women and another one for the those kept under an isolation regime. The building came to host more than 800 patients.
One of the employees told:
«[…] at a certain point we realised that bread was disappearing from the canteen. After an enquiry we discover that one patient, one of the hose deemed dangerous, would steal it in order to give to bedridden inmates »
- Photos by Pierangelo Za (November 2012)
- Locate the item on this Google Map
- Archivio Di Stato Di Lecce
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