Hospital de San Nicolás de Bari (remains)

Today a preserved ruin, the Hospital de San Nicolás de Bari in Santo Domingo is the oldest hospital built in the Americas. It was built between 1503 and 1508 at the behest of governor (and namesake of the hospital) Nicolás de Ovando. It was a church-hospital inspired by the Hospital of Santo Spirito in Saxia in Rome.

At the time of its completion, the wards could accommodate up to 70 patients. The structure, in keeping with contemporary European hospitals, was composed of three naves: a central one for worship flanked by two lateral naves which housed the sick. In this way, patients were literally steps away from the chapel and the tabernacle located in its core. Since the hospital began operating in 1522, it has been providing its services until the mid-18th century.

The remains of the church-hospital complex form part of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo World Heritage Site1.

  • Photos by Alessio Lorusso (October 2019)

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