A) The origins
B) The history
C) The Assunta Hall and the Pharmacy
D) The works from 1930 to nowadays
E) The hospital from the sky
F) Bibliography and Credits
|A) THE ORIGINS
Joâo Cidade, now venerated with the name San Giovanni di Dio [St. John of God] that he assumed when ordained, was born in Portugal near Èvora about in 1491 (pict.A1). After an adventurous life he dedicated himself to the health service of the sick people and in 1539 founded in Granada a religious family of “Frati Ospedalieri” [Hospital friars], with the purpose to assist sick and poor people. This new Religious Institution was recognized in 1572 by the pope Pius V with the "Licet ex debito" papal bull and was nicknamed "Fatebenefratelli" [do good, brothers], from the phrase used by the saint to invite the passer-by to make charity: «fate bene, fratelli, per amore di Dio» [do good, brothers, for love of God]. The pope Sistus V with the breve "Etsi pro debito" elevated the congregation to Regular Order in 1586 joining the communities spread in various countries under an unique chief staying in Rome at the Tiber Island.
St. John of God died in 1550 in Granada and never came to Rome, but the Fatebenefratelli reached it for the first time in 1572 and there, in 1581, they founded the first hospital nucleus in the former "casa degli Orfanelli" [house of orphans] at Piazza di Pietra (pict.A2): the so-called "new Hospital" consisting of 20 beds only. In june 1585 they moved to the Tiber Island where, thanks to the help of pope Gregorio XIII, bought a convent previously held by the benedictine nuns Santucce until 1573 and subsequently by the Bolognesi's brotherhood. Moreover the pope granted them the adjacent church of St. Giovanni Calibita.
B) THE HISTORY
Between the end of the XV and the begin of the XVI century hospitals, that were simple refuges, become to be transformed to places for treatment, whith the purpose to recover the sick persons and return them to the normal life; new figures arose as the “phisici” [physicians], i.e. the doctors whose duty was to understand the causes of illness and to find the cures, and the “chirurgi” [lit.: surgeries] that phisically acted on the patients. The Fatebenefratelli became part of this hospital evolution and grew.
The hospital gradually estended acquiring and renting some nearby small houses lived in by tanners and fishers. In order to increase room the St. Giovanni Calibita church itself was reduced from three naves, still visible in the Bufalini map dated 1551 (pict.B1), to the present single nave: in particular the left aisle became the entrance corridor to the complex.
In 1656, during the serious pestilence that happened in Rome, it was stated to keep the hospital for the plague sick people to take advantage from the natural isolation guaranteed by the island itself: on june 18th the whole island was evacuated and assigned as a lazaret for the infected people (pict.B2). The Fatebenefratelli not involved in sick people assistance were moved to St.Maria della Sanità, at Viminale, and the Franciscans of St.Bartholomew church to the Aracoeli monastery; the other inabitants of the island were evicted and compensated with a poor indemnity. The bridges, access ways to the island, were provided with double gates, as visible in the map in pict.B3 from the Chigi Codex. The hospital was assigned to men hospitalization and the Caetani tower and the nearby houses to women. On october 18th an ordinance decreed the end of the emergency and allowed the owners to come back to their houses in the island.
The fig.B4 shows the hospital as it looked in 1676 in the Rome map by Falda.
In 1700 the hospital was restored by Carapecchia: on that occasion it was completed the reorganization of the Assunta Hall, the first modern hospital ward with 50 beds (see sect.C); in the Nolli map dated 1748 (see pict.B5) the St.Giovanni Calibita church is indicated with number 1093 and the hospital ward with the 1094. With far-sighted policy and uncommon in that times it was stated the principle that every sick person should have a his own bed and the hospital was organized in departments taking into account the various pathologies.
In the Brogliardo [property register] of the Rome Catasto Urbano [Land Register] (pict.B6) (the Register was activated in 1824 and updated up to 1871) the hospital is indicated at the position 35 of the del Ripa District as property of the Padri Bonfratelli [Bonfratelli Fathers], and identified with the house numbers 38 of the St. Bartholomew Island [i.e. Tiber Island] (3 stories) and 60 of Via delle Mole [Mills Street] (3 stories in the east part, without house number, and 2 stories at house number 60).
To the same Fathers, at the position 35 ½, it is assigned the property of the St.Giovanni Calibita church, with the "Porteria" [the main entrance to the complex] at the house number 39 of the Island.
In 1865, thanks to the legacy of Francesco Amici, dead in 1858, the architect Azzurri realized a modern ward for men (pict.B7). The old Amici Hall area corresponds to the present 2nd floor impatients ward on Trastevere side.
In 1873, three years after the annexation of Rome to the Italy kingdom, it was extended to Rome the subversive law establishing the confiscation of the real estate belonging to the ecclesiasic board, according to which both the hospital and the pharmacy will be allotted to Rome Town Council. In 1887 the pharmacy was rent out to the civil association of Fatebenefratelli and at last in 1892, thanks also to the many acquaintances of Bro. Orsenigo, the dentist of the hospital celebrated in all the town, the Fatebenefratelli finally obtained to redeem the pharmacy and the hospital paying in a huge sum of money.
In 1930 the Fatebenefratelli, with a contribution by the Vatican, bought all the buildings at the west side of the island that, after many polemics, were demolished together the hospital annexes; in 1934 the rebuilding of the hospital was completed according to the project of Cesare Bazzani, that kept the façade toward St.Bartholomew square.
In 1972 the hospital officially get the name of St.Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli, from the name of the church that constituted its original nucleus and is still making part of it, and was classified as Zone General Hospital. Perfectly adequate to the nowadays needs, a present the hospital consists of 420 beds and new well equipped departments. The Assunta Hall, at present rearranged as Congress Hall, accomodates important international meetings and congresses.
The hospital has always been part of the Rome events: it has been the main hospitalization place for the clashes in 1849 during the unsuccessful Roman Republic, in 1870 when Rome was conquered by the Piedmontese army and during the Nazi occupation in 1944 when also many Jews were recovered and hidden there. Finally in 1982 there were treated the people injured by the attack to the nearby Synagogue.
C) THE ASSUNTA HALL AND THE PHARMACY
The Assunta Hall, constituting part of the original nucleus of the hospital, was reorganized and modernized probably starting from 1680, and surely was already completed when, on March 1st 1702, the pope Clemente XI came to visit it for the first time. In the painting in pict.C1, that shows the visit of the pope Clemente XIII in 1759, the Hall looks well lighted and provided with two rows of 25 single tester beds with curtains. Its width permitted, when necessary, to add further 25 movable beds in the intermediate corridor: they, provided with wheels, was commonly called "cariole", roman slang for carriole [wheelbarrows] (from which comes the popular insult still actual in Rome "...e di tuo nonno in cariola" [...and of your grandfather in the wheelbarrow]).
The main entrance was from the St. Bartholomew square, through the main door of the present pharmacy; at the opposite end there was an altar dedicated to Our Lady, the Assunta [received into Heaven], from which the hall was named, in order to permit the patients to assist the religious services without moving fron their beds (pict.C2). The painting showing the Assunta, led to heaven by two angels and framed in a baroque frame with plaster angels, is a work of the beginning of XVIII century. The altar frontal (pict.C3), in polychrome scagliola, dates back to 1681. In the room vault there are represented scenes of the Life of St. John of God frescoed by G.P.Schor.
On the occasion of the 1702 visit, represented in pict.C4 at the present located in the refectory of the Monastery, the pope Albani (Clemente XI) granted to the Fatebenefratelli the small square at the west side of the Assunta Hall to extend the ward (from the memories of Bro. Tommaso Mongai : "...e concesse al nostro Spedale la Piazzetta che resta dietro lo Spedale, acciò potesse la Religione stendere la fabbrica del medesimo" [...and granted to our Hospital the small Square that is behind the Hospital, so that the Religion can extend the structure of the same]). On this area a further hall was built, so called "new hospital", suitable for about 20 beds, at a level two meter higher than the Assunta Hall and joined to it by means of two semicircular stair flights at the sides of the altar. They are visible in the painting in pict.C5. The above ward extention can be confirmed comparing the Falda map (pict.B4 - 1676), in which the square is still existing, and the Nolli one (pict.B5 - 1748) in which are clearly recognized two wards connected by means of a double stairs flight. In his honour the papal coat of arms was placed on the still existing arch (pict.C3 and C5) that divided the wards.
The painting in pict.C5, lost in Milan under the bombs in 1943, should represent the second visit of Clemente XI, dated 1705, for the inauguration of the new ward; however recent studies  show that in that time the ward was not yet built and therefore the picture is to be considered painted before the completion of the ward, probably as a tribute to the pope's generosity, and this is confirmed by the evident diffrence between the represented arch and the actually built one.
The presence of a pharmacy can be considered contemporary to the settlement of the Fatebenefratelli in the island as its existence is already documented at the end of 1500. In the report of the Apostolic Visit in 1663 it is quoted: "Contigua al portone del convento, dentro una stanza assai capace e rispondente nella strada pubblica, si esercita da un secolare, che ha ivi la comodità di abitarvi, la spetiaria..." [Adjacent to the monastry main door, inside a very spacious room that is communicating with the public road, it is held by a lay, that is allowed to live there, the pharmacy...] and in the 1699 one "...farmacia sta vicino al portone del convento a mano sinistra nell'entrare, dove vi è la porta" [...pharmacy is near the main door of the monastry at the left while entering, where there is the door]. Therefore the pharmacy was located in the room between the Assunta Hall and the inlet corridor of the monastry, accessible through a door opened in the corridor itself; a secondary inlet from the cloister side was walled up in order to better preserve the seclution. The public access from the road was probably only through a grating, as usual at that time. In pict.C5 is shown the inside of the pharmacy as it was around 1960.
The integrity of the Assunta Hall, testified by the Lanciani map still at the beginning of 1900, was broken by the restoration works of the hospital in 1932, when the new pharmacy took place in its terminal part using its main entrance from St.Batholomew square; a second access was opened toward the Fatebenefratelli square.
The first of six frescoes that decorate the ceiling of the Assunta Hall is still visible going up the pharmacy entresol, used as drugs warehouse.
The hall was operating as hospital ward up to 1982 when it was rearranged transforming the west side into the present Congress Hall fit for 250 seats (pict.C6), on whose ceiling are visible two of the original six frescoes, and building offices in the remaining area.
D) THE WORKS FROM 1930 TO NOWADAYS
Even though the continuous adaptation of the hospital to the evolution of the sanitary criteria, in 1930 it was decided to carry out a large expansion and a deep reorganization, entrusting the relevant project to the architect Cesare Bazzani.
For this purpose all the buildings at the west end of the island, shown in pict.D1, were purchased and demolished; this was possible also thanks the intervention and an economical contribution of the pope, so that the permission was obtained on July 2nd 1930, only 14 days after the request.
The demolitions, completed on September 12th 1931, involved also a large part of the old hospital itself, so that only a quarter of the about 180.000 cubic meters costituting the old complex was preserved.
For the new foundations there were employed about 800 concrete piles connected by beams, tufa and brick masonries for the underground; moreover the old bell tower was demolished and rebuilt. The comparison of the arrangements before and after the restoration, including the further modifications carried out until 1983, is shown in the pict.D2.
Inside the Green Hall a latin epigraph (original text) commemorates the meeting occurred on April 11th 1934 in the old Chapter Hall to celebrate the end of the restoration works in presence of the cardinal Marchetti Selvaggiani and the architect Bazzani.
In 1957, on the architect Martini's project, they built the General Curia building and modified the hospital main access building the present porter's lodge; the pict.D3 shows the hospital appearance at the beginning of the last '60ties. In 1965-66 the Assunta Hall was provided with boxes for the impatients.
In November 1977 the general Prior Pierluigi Marchesi started a new and radical rearrangement, entrusting the relevant project to the architects Sergio Cobolli Gigli and Giorgio Monico, that worked out a proposal for the reorganization of the whole hospital both from technological and functional point of view.
The project, approved in the beginning of 1981, included the construction of the technological complexes, then still missing, and the reconstitution of all the hospital facilities. In order to get the necessary room new entresols were built, in particular between the second and fourth floor, obtaining about furter 1000 sq.mt, and all the activities not stricrly necessary for the sanitary functions were moved outside the hospital (the general warehouse, the Nuns lodging, the nurse School, the Accounts Department, the Personnel Department, some surgeries and the General Curia house).
In 1982 the Assunta Hall was completely restored and transformed into the present Congress Hall fit for 250 seats.
Besides the general improvements carried out between 1985 and 1993, in 1994 the surveyor Caporilli coordinated the archeological excavations and the subfoundation works to achieve new room: at first the works concerned all the not built outside spaces owned by the Fatebenefratelli, about 1200 sq.mt, in which the technological complexes were built; subsequently were excavated the yards (pict.D4) and the undergroung areas under the hospital buildings obtaining further 3000 sq.mt used for accomodate new hospital services.
E) THE HOSPITAL FROM THE SKY