Santa Maria della Scala

The hospital of Santa Maria della Scala (Holy Mary of the Stair) in Siena is one of the oldest and most superb hospitals in the world. At the beginning of the second Millennium of the Christian era along the "section of the Via Francigena running through Siena, some fifty hospices sprang up, where pilgrims could be given shelter and care on their way. Of various sizes, nearly all of these were established as a result of legacies or donations"1. "Mentioned in a deed of gift as early as 1090, the Santa Maria hospital was founded by the cathedral canons, even if a medieval Sienese legend tells of a mythical founder by the name of Sorore, a cobbler, who died in 898. After 1195 the running of the hospital became progressively more secular, passing from the canons of the cathedral to the hospital friars, also known as oblates."2.
Little by little the hospital enlarged and became more and more important not only from the medical point of view but also from the economical and social ones. Today, "while the thousand-year-old hospital is being completely restored and renovated, it is also being converted to new, modern functions of museum and cultural activities. The construction of a new general hospital made it possible to proceed with the redevelopment project: from the end of the 1970s (…) the first wards of the Santa Maria were bringing their hospital functions to a close and preparations were being made to transfer them to the new complex"3.

The monumental complex of Santa Maria della Scala hospital facing Siena's cathedral


The hospital church and some interiors


The Pellegrinaio Ward with the mid-15th century frescoes describing the main aspects of hospital's mission


The stair is the symbol of the hospital and of its properties


Some architectural and historical details

  • Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (July 2012), courtesy of Prof. Francesca Vannozzi

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