Ospedale San Giuseppe
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The Ospedale San Giuseppe (St Joseph Hospital) in Milan (via San Vittore, 12) was founded in 1874 by the Lombardo-Veneta Province of the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God (aka Fatebenefratelli), with the blessing of Pope Pius IX. It is still placed in the heart of Milan, very close to the Basilica of St. Ambrogio.1

The hospital’s foundation came into in a citizen reality already characterized by the presence of other two hospitals run by Hospitaller Order: the old hospital near the canal of St. Mark founded in 1588, Santa Maria Aracoeli and the Convent Hospital of Santa Maria Loreto whose scientific and social merits were acknowledged by all the rules and dominations in Lombardy (Spanish, Austrian and Napoleonic domination) since the Sixteenth century.

At the first, San Giuseppe hospital was born as a small private hospice. It was mainly addressed to take care of chronic and sub-chronic patients belonging to the lower classes: «The aim of Institute of the Brothers Hospitallers is a charitable institution, the goal is help the lower classes. With this statement of the law of 1862, confirmed by Royal Decree of 05/25/1865, the supreme authority had recognized, although only formally, that the single and the unique purpose was the only charity and not the hospital structure ownership and neither the administration of the estate»2.

1866 was an important year for the hospital life. Very restrictive laws were issued by the Italian government led by Bettino Ricasoli about the activities of the religious orders (Law number 3036 of 7 July 1866). According to them, religious people could continue working only as employees in their hospitals: they were not anymore the owners of the estate. During these changing years life at San Giuseppe hospital continued without major hassles, with the exception of a tragic moment in 1885: the structure in via St. Vittore had to accept other brothers who were forced to abandon the hospital of Santa Maria Aracoeli.3

In the following years, innovations were introduced in the structure of the San Giuseppe in order to provide more medical services to the growing Milan population. It was also inaugurated a section which aim was to take care of patients with tuberculosis, a very common disease in an industrial city as Milan. Moreover, another building, a new surgery department, potentiated the social service of the hospital in 1903. These innovations allowed San Giuseppe Hospital to became a military hospital for the reception and the hospitalization of hundreds of wounded during the First World War.4

In 1923 a public pharmacy and a maternity ward were opened. In fact, the Hospitaller Brothers were experts in the production of pharmaceutical preparations, especially of herbal remedies. Moreover the new maternity ward responded to the demographic increase in the main italian industrial city during the fascist regime. In the same period, in an hospital’s room, still extant, saint Riccardo Pampuri, an Order’s young doctor, died of pleurisy.5

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The hospital life continued until the 15th of August 1942: during the Second World War an Allied bombing destroyed the entire building.7

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Altough it took ten years to rebuilt and reopen the hospital, at last the number of beds increased from 205, before the war, to 300 in 1952, allowing St. Giuseppe to become the biggest and most advanced private hospital in the city. Further additions and improvements were made in 1967, when the front on via san Vittore was completely renovated and the main body of the building was restructured, reaching 400 beds in September 1974.10

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Preserving its legal and administrative autonomy, St. Giuseppe hospital was included in the public health system becoming a "General Hospital" for that area. After the institution of the Italian National Health System in 1978, the clinic was acknowledged in all respects as a general hospital. In 1990, St. Giuseppe stipulated an agreement with the School of Medicine of the Milan State University and became a teaching hospital for students of that school. At present, in the hospital there are five university wards in which clinical research occurs: general medicine, endocrinology, general surgery, urology and laboratory medicine. Since the 1st of August 2006 and for the next 18 years, St. Giuseppe hospital will not be anymore directly managed by Hospitaller Brothers, but by a private company named Milanocuore S.p.A.
At the beginning of 2009, the hospital was bought by Villa Maria (an healthcare holding), but, at the end of the same year, MultiMedica corporation became the new owner.16

Hospital front nowadays

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Ancient cloister17

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Cloister nowadays

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Hospital chapel

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  • Text and photos by Daniele Mazzoleni ti.ecila|inad.azzam#| (March 2014)
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Bibliography
1. A.S.F, Relazione anonima, cf. i.a.
2. I Fatebenefratelli 1788-1887 tomo XXI, Brockhusen Giovanna della Croce, Zucchelli Mario, edizioni Fatebenefratelli.
3. Memoria di L.P. ACCURSI, Roma, 1878
4. Edizione della rivista Fatebenefratelli 1-2, 1943
5. Edizione della rivista Fatebenefratelli, 1946
6. “Un bellissimo pezzo di fabbrica” il Fatebenefratelli tra barocco e neoclassico.
7. Comuzzi A. Fatebenefratelli: quattro secoli di storia a Milano. Liscate-Milano,
a. Cens, 1988
8. AA. VV. Atti del Convegno “Fatebenefratelli, 400 anni a Milano”. Liscate-
a. Milano, Cens, 1988.
9. Battelli G. Santa Sede e Vescovi nello Stato Unitario, in: Chittolini G e
a. Niccoli G (a cura di). Storia d’Italia, Annali IX. Torino, Einaudi, 1986
10. Belloni L. La Medicina a Milano dal Settecento al 1915, in: Storia di Milano,
XVI. Milano, Treccani degli Alfieri, 1962

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