Ospedale della Vita

The "Ospedale della Vita" (Hospital of Life) was the first place for hospitalization in Bologna (via Clavature, 8-10). Raniero Barcobini Fasani, an hermit monk that flagellated himself to experience the pain of Christ, estabilished the confraternity of life in 1261. When he arrived in Bologna he decided to build an hospital to take care of sick people.1


The church

The "Ospedale della Vita" was founded in 1287 near a little church dedicated to S. Vito, that later became the official church of the hospital. At the beginning, it was named “Hospitale Devotorum” dedicated to “Societas Devotorum Civitatis et Diocesis Bononie” because this society inspired itself from the confraternity of Battuti.2

Later the hospital name turned into “Ospedale della Vita” in contrast of the famous opposite hospital called Ospedale della Morte.3

Through the centuries - due to the excellence of its physicians, the charity and kindness of its caregivers, and the number of miraculous recoveries attributed to the Holy Virgin in the adjoined Sanctuary of "Santa Maria della Vita" - the hospital grew in fame and dimensions, becoming a splendid healthcare and artistic complex.

In 1801 the hospital was merged with the Ospedale della Morte and was named “Grande Ospedale Maggiore” (then renamed “Ospedale Maggiore” in 1814).


The plaque outside the church

Today only the church, a magnificent internal chapel and some more spaces have been left as a memory of the ancient monumental complex. In the last years (recently), a little but interesting museum of the history of healtcare (Museo della Sanità e dell'Assistenza) has been arranged in some locals of the complex.

On the left of the church entrance, there is a little passage leading to the Museum and interior Chapel. On the right wall of this passage a tablet referring to the foundation and history of the Hospital can be seen (see last photo below), with the following latin inscription: "VITAM DAT NOBIS CRUX / TUA CHRISTE IESU / - / DEVOTORUM SOCIETAS / PRIMA IN CIVITATE BONONIAE / AUCTORE B[EATO] RAINERIO TUNC EREMITA / MOX ORDINIS MINORUM / XENODOCHIUM ISTUD INSTITUIT / QUOD EX INGENTI IN INFIRMOS PIETATE / ET AUCTORIS MIRACULORUM COPIA / VITAE PRAECLARUM NOMEN ACCEPIT / ANNO DOMINI / (…?….)".


Inside the church


Plan of the old hospital and of the church

  • Photos and main text by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (October 2008), Benedetta Bongiovanni ti.liamtoh|oignobynneb#| and Rachele Tortoriello ti.orebil|rotelehcar#| (December 2016-January 2017)


- 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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