In 1470, as reported by the Roman Senate's Annalist Stefano Fessura, the presumed miracle in favour of a young woman whose son was condamned to death, gave the birth to the Santa Maria della Consolazione's worship1. Due to the large number of devotees, Pope Paul II committed the erection of a church and a related hospital in Her honor.
This new hospital grew in popularity so much that in 1475 a laical company was created in order to administrate the many donations. It was called "Società della Consolazione" (Society of the Consolation) and its members were the main backers of the hospital2. The guidelines of this newborn company were based on the already established "Società delle Grazie" (Society of the Graces) that owned two churches (called "Santa Maria delle Grazie" and "Santa Maria in Portico") and a related hospital all situated in the same area of "Santa Maria della Consolazione".
In 1506 the two societies decided to merge their possessions in order to create a unified bigger health care centre called "Arcispedale della Consolazione"3.
Since the first month after its foundation the new "Arcispedale" had the favour of some of the most powerful men of the 16th Century, such as the two cardinals Alessandro Riario and Giacomo Corradi, who supported the construction of the old pharmacy4
and Cesare Borgia and Vannozza Cattanei, who converted the little Saint Lorenzo's Church in a building for the medical assistance of women, called "Ospedale delle Donne"5;
Moreover, an important mention has to be done for Pope Pius IX who, in 1851, helped to build a new wing of the structure, now named to Luigi Gonzaga, with more then 24 beds.
The "Arcispedale della Consolazione" became well known soon thanks to its excellent school of medicine.
It was considered one of the main health center regarding the treatment and cure of traumatic injuries6. For this reason it had a central role during the rise of the First Roman Republic as military hospital to assist the wounded soldiers7.
The Benedictine's Order took the reins of its administration in 1847, due to the bankruptcy of the previous society, and ruled it until 1931, when, after the foundation of the "Ospedale Littorio", the hospital was finally closed under the pressure of the Fascist government.
The layout of the Hospital is obviously changed a lot during the centuries, developing from the first original structure built on part of the ruins of the Augustus Temple since 1100, till the actual one where, as before mentioned, the headquarters of the Roman Local Police take place.
Immediatly after the etrance, on the left side, a door divides the hall from a great room named to Cola di Rienzo.
Unfortunatly, its ceiling is unstable nowdays, and it is not possible to go in; but throughout the scaffoldings, the typical structure of the "Corsia sistina", named from Sixtus IV, great financier for the building of many hospitals at the time, can be seen. At the end of the room, there was an altar with a fresco of the three Virgin Maries which today take place in the bordering Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione.
On the opposite side of Cola di Rienzo room, there is another space, named to Luigi Gonzaga, another perfect example of "Corsia sistina", which today is a conference-room: it is shorter than the previous one, but there is still the original 15th Century's ceiling.
Going along the main central hallway of the building, six rooms closed by the original wood-doors can be seen: they all were setted aside for the infirms, while today they are offices.
In one of these, named to Cesare Magati, there is a fresco which portrays three times Virgin Mary, each representing the respective religious order.
The central cloister of the hospital gets on his four walls lots of plaques, referring to doctors or various other personalities, important for the history hospital. Moreover, a little engraving with the emblem of the religious order after the union of 1506 can be seen. A portico facing on the cloister, today walled up to obtain other officies and a little chapel, is represented in different paintings of the time as full of drawn human organs and a dead body that is going to be analyzed, like it was used to be done in the anatomic theatres of the medicine schools.
Going out from the cloister, what remains of the old garden can be seen, with a row of orange trees, only part of the original citrus grove, which was thought to have healthy powers on infirms.
At the end of the garden, there is a building which since 1848 had housed the order of the "Nuns of the Thoughtfulness": in fact, during the brief duration of the Roman Republic, it received the permission to take care of all the patients, men too. It is exactly next to this structure that a pair of high palm trees (in origin they where three) of the washingtonian race stands: they are told to be the highest in Europe, probably just a rumor, but they can even be seen from Via dei Fori Imperiali.
Behind the old anatomic theatre, there is a fresco of Santa Maria della Consolazione, near which a winding staircase brings to the original old library of the complex, now supervised by the religious order of Santa Maria della Consolazione Church.
In front of this fresco, there is an entrance which, when the hospital was in function, was used to bring out the corpses to be buried in the bordering graveyard.
Finally, the famous wing of the hospital wanted by Cesare Borgia for women, was on the opposite side of the actual main entrance, under the high ground of the Campidoglio. After beeing used for a not very long period, it became the place of the afterwork of the hospital workers; it was demolished during the excavations to bring to light the Foro Romano, reason for which the ground was lowered, as it can be seen from the gap between the door and the actual level of the ground on the back side of the Church.
- Photos and main text by Domenico Lanzo moc.liamg|79oznald#| and Emanuele Claudio Mingo ti.liamtoh|2091.eleuname#| (January 2017), courtesy of Mario Pompi and Oreste Lelli Ponzani; aerial photos and old planimetry, courtesy of Corpo di Polizia di Roma Capitale (January 2017)
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- Pietro Pericoli, Ospedale della Consolazione di Roma, dalle sue origini ai giorni nostri, Tipografia d'Ignazio Galeati e Figlio, Imola 1879, pp. 516