Thursday, 27 November 2014

The National Museum of Health-Care Art and the Hospital Santo Spirito in Saxia

Today I'll tell you about an interesting little museum in Rome focusing on medicine and health-care.
It can be found by the Hospital of Santo Spirito in Saxia, precisely in the wing of the hospital dating XVII century, now turned into the Academy of Health-Care and museum.
The museum hosts a series of collections from various sources, some of them were donations from scholars and doctors working in the hospital, most of them come from an old Anatomical Museum located in an area of Castel Sant'Angelo destroyed during the works to create Lungotevere.
Besides artworks and paintings related to the medical line of job, the museum offers a huge collection of medical tools and instruments from various ages, wax models, anatomical preparations and a disturbing collection of "oddities" mostly related to fetal malformations (I'm not sharing pictures of them in this post for a sense of decency) and the effects of infective diseases like the syphilis on the skeletal structure.
There are also the reconstructions of an ancient pharmacy and a chemical-alchemical laboratory from the XVII century, that are a real joy to explore in every little detail!

If you're not easily impressed and curious enough, then, feel free to follow this walk of mine along the mysterious halls of this peculiar museum.

The first hall that we find once inside is called Alexandrine Hall, and it's now mostly dedicated to meetings and conventions.
Its walls are decorated by rather suggestive artworks:

The anatomical figures, hand-coloured prints portraing the viscera, the stratum and the systems, are the jobs of Antonio Serantony under the scientifical guidance of Paolo Mascagni (1752-1815), a famous anatomist.
The oil paintings came from the collection of Guglielmo Riva (1626-1677), famous anatomist and surgeon of the Roman Hospital of Consolazione.
The painting on wood featuring a man exposing his Lymphatic system (focusing on chyle conducts) is called "Microcosm", and the author is unknown.

Main feature of the hall, though, are the busts of the phisicists, most prominent is that of Hyppocrates:
This last one is a view of the hall as we got upstairs to visit the next hall.

The second hall of this walk is the Sala Flajani that hosts an impressive collection of wax models and anatomical preparations, some of them coming straight from your worst nightmares...
All the specimens of this hall were prepared and collected in the XVII century, so its historical importance sure leave an impression.

Besides the collections of the fetal and children malformations, or the malformations caused by rare sickness now disappeared, there is a wonderful collection of anatomical waxes, the most important being the collection of obstetrics, commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Saverio de Zelada to Giovan Battista Manfredini.

Other "oddities" are the skull of Plinius and the collection of kidney stones:

Next is the Capparoni Room:
In this room we can see some of the most interesting artifacts concerning the history of medicine.
These, for example, are wax ex voto dating the Roman ages, used to give their thanks for healing or to prevent certain sickness:
Right under them, medical tools dating the prehistory and the Roman age found at Pompeii:

Two peculiar models of the XVII century: a little "Anatomical Venus" in avory and a portable "putrefatto", models made to show and study the levels of putrefaction of corpses:
Two human skulls dedicated to the study of phrenology:
Sets of chirurgical drills that can be dismantled, and the interesting collection of "portable pharmacies" dating from the XVII to the XIX century:

This last one belonged to Lord Byron!

Here's the decorated horn of a narvalus with its case, at the time passed of as the horn of an unicorn:
There is also a huge collection of apothecary vases and various composts coming from various periods:

Passing on, we enter the Carbonelli Hall.
The most important features of this hall are the model of the Sistine Ward, a primitive model of the Hospital of Santo Spirito, showing how the place looked back in the XIV century:

And the "chair" belonging to Giovanni Maria Lancisi, a scholar of the hospital, from where he held his lessons of anatomy and medicine:
Following is the huge collection of surgical instruments donated by Victor Emmanuel II:

The grips are made of ivory!

Other artifacts that caught my attention were these dental plates dating from the XVIII to the XIX century, and the collection of medical degrees and dispensaries:

This last picture shows a medical manual of the Middle Ages.

A special feature is this preparation featuring the neural system, created by Luigi Raimondi in 1844:

There's another on the other side, work of Stefano Frattocchio.

A special mention for the various machines featured in this hall-- Here are pictures of a machine for anaesthetic dating 1914, a machine for elecroshock, and a machine used to check the blood pressure:

Another interesting feature are the herbals and the collections of homeopathic preparations:

Dulcis in fundo, the reconstructions of the pharmacy and the laboratory!
Here are a few shots of the pharmacy:

You can see the various apothecary vases, the herbal and the desk from where the doctor made his prescriptions.
From this picture you can see how the laboratory and the pharmacy were connected:
And here are a few shots of the chemical-alchemical lab:

The lab hosts an interesting reproduction of the "Alchemical Door" now preserved in the park of Piazza Vittorio... As the original is pretty much inaccessible it's cool to see it from up close XD

Once I was done with the museum, I went out to take a peek at the Sistine Ward, of which I just showed you the scale model of Carbonelli Hall:

Unfortunately it was closed for some restoring works, so I couldn't access the place, but I could still show you something interesting:
This is the "Foundling Wheel" once used to place unwanted babies to the attention of the caretakers.
It was installed in 1198, after Papa Innocenzo III found himself afflicted by recurring nightmares involving the crying souls of the unwanted children left to drown in the Tiber by their desperate mothers.
The "Wheels" were completely abolished in 1923 by the Fascist Government that took care of the issue with a decree setting precise rules for the assistence of the abandoned children, but even today, the habit of leaving newborns by hospitals to grant them assistence is still quite common.