Ospedale della Morte

The "Ospedale della Morte" (Hospital of death) is situated in Bologna in the corner between Via dell'Archiginnasio, Via de' Musei and Via Foscherari.1. It was a very important hospital. Later, in 1801, it was merged with the Ospedale della Vita and renamed "Ospedale Maggiore".

Portico della Morte


Around 1300, during the crisis of ecclesiastical institution, there was a period of spiritual enthusiasm. The confraternity of “Santa Maria della Morte" was born in this period. This confraternity was inspired by Venturino da Bergamo, a monk that in 1334 made a pilgrimage from Bergamo to Rome in which citizens from Bologna were very numerous. This pilgrimage was so influential that in 1336 the confraternity of “Santa Maria della Morte” saw its birth.2

Subsequently in 1347 the confraternity built an homonimal hospital in order to take care of sentenced to death and jailed people. Moreover the hospital gave charitable assistance to sick people, like the close Ospedale della Vita, estabilished by the confraternity of Battuti, had done before.3

After the plague of the second half of 1300, the “Ospedale della Morte” was expanded, because of the rising amount of diseases. The confraternity of Battuti named its hospital "Ospedale della Vita" due to the growing popularity of the “Ospedale della Morte”. In the same period the confraternity of “Santa Maria della Morte” began to bury executed people in the graveyard and it stated itself as an important ecclesiastical and civil institution. Its official recognition came from Pope Gregorio XIII between 1572-76.4


In 1427 the hospital was rebuilt and enlarged with two infirmaries, one for women and one for men. The following enlargements occupied the neighborhood between the portico of the Pavaglione, Via de’ Musei, Via Marchesana and Via Foscherari.

The confraternity of “Santa Maria della Morte” ceased to exist in 1789, after Napoleonic reforms and after the suppresion of religious orders, and its church was closed in 1799. The hospital was closed and it was included in the "Ospedale della Vita" in 1801 situated in the same place of Ospedale della Vita and it was renamed “Grande Ospedale della Vita e della Morte” and then Ospedale Maggiore.5

Later the hospital's position changed and the two earlier locations were employed as a library and later reconverted in a church (Ospedale della Vita) and the other one (Ospedale della Morte) in the city civic museum (Archeological section). The apse is the only extant structure of the old "Ospedale della Morte".

The main entrance


The side part of Portico della Morte


The side entrance to the museum


The apse


The courtyard

  • Photos and main text by Benedetta Bongiovanni ti.liamtoh|oignobynneb# | and Rachele Tortoriello ti.orebil|rotelehcar#| (December 2016-January 2017)
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- Massimo Medica, Mark Gregory D'Apuzzo (a cura di), Tra la Vita e la Morte. Due confraternite bolognesi tra Medioevo e Età Moderna, SilvanaEditoriale, Cinisello Balsamo (MI) 2015, pp. 127

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