The Psychiatric Hospital of Pesaro, wanted by Monsignor Benedetto Cappelletti1, opened on 01/01/18292 at the border of the city centre. The structure was built using an old church and the annexed -and relatively inexpensive- monastery of Capuchins: this explains the unusual location of the mental institution3. The main reason for the foundation of the psychiatric hospital is the emanation in 1749 of the “Dispaccio del Buon governo pontificio” (a papal decree) that compelled the presence of a structure for mental diseases in every region4; moreover, it was the same Pope Leone XII who financed the project5. Conceived as “Stabilimento di beneficienza de' pazzi” (charity establishment for demented people), the structure was inaugurated as “Hospitium Sancti Benedicti Pisauri” (San Benedetto Hospice of Pesaro) in honor of the founder. After that the hospice would change name several times, to settle in the end on “Ospedale psichiatrico provinciale di San Benedetto“ (San Benedetto Provincial Psychiatric Hospital)6, that will stay the same until its closing with the Basaglia Law in 1978 – even if the last guest of the San Benedetto would leave only in 19977.
Facade of the structure, 1917
San Benedetto's facade nowadays
Since the beginning the life conditions of the demented people were terrible : the structure was not enough to host all the guests, and there were severe problems in heating, nutrition, hygiene, care and medical equipment8. The medical staff was composed of the medical-director and a medical assistant (reaching a patients-doctor ratio of 175:1)9 for years, and even with the hiring of a healthcare assistant, it will never be adequate.10 Every one of the directors of the San Benedetto reported the situation and requested resources to the provincial administration, without great results. The psychiatric hospital went through many property renovations and expansions; some important changes were the annexion of a green area, “il Parchetto”11, where the mentally ill people could walk and take a breath of fresh air, the improvement of the quality of water, sanitary system, wardrobe, nutrition, beds, and the attempt to divide patients based on their kind of illness.12
Right view of the green zone "Parchetto"
Frontal view of the building from the "Parchetto"
Example of summer sweader, 1968
A considerable attempt to improve the life conditions of the demented was made by Cesare Lombroso, director of the San Benedetto between March and the autumn of 1872, who created a direct communication between the management of the hospital and the family of the patients. Unfortunately the gravity of the stucture situation and the convinction that a change was not to come in the near future, forced him to leave the direction of the hospital. During his permanence he studied the anthropomorphic characteristics of the demented patients and the beginning of the studies of physical traits of criminals.13
Picture that should prove the relationship between physiognomy and mental disturbance. From G. Gerolami's publication - successor of Lombroso.
The San Benedetto Psychiatric Hospital has been used by the community in many circumstances: during the cholera epidemic it was used to confine the infected14; after WWI it provided shelter to the people traumatized by the conflict (“gli scemi di guerra”); in the Twenties and Thirties the hospital became a place of reclusion for the opposers of the political regime; finally, during WWII, when Pesaro was conquered by the german army, the San Benedetto was used as a military hospital for soldiers with mental illnesses15.
Plaque fixed during Nazi occupation
Plaque in honor of Bernardo and Torquato Tasso: "In the Pleasure of the Parchetto / that belonged to princes Della Rovere / sojourned and wrote / Bernardo and Torquato Tasso".
Nowadays, the hospital has been put out of order and, since it's abandoned, is nearly in ruins.
Left entrance of the courtyard
Right entrance of the courtyard
The advanced state of abandonment
- Photos 1,5,6 from the book Scene da un manicomio (see Bibliography)
- Photos 2-4, 7-11 and main text by Sara Marchesani (February 2015)
- Locate the item on this [ Google Maps]
- C. Casadei, R. Domenichini, Scene da un manicomio, Pesaro 2015
- Paolo Giovannini, Il San Benedetto, Storia del manicomio pesarese dalle origini alla grande guerra, Pesaro città e contà, Pesaro 2009,