Many of the leading healthcare institutions in Europe were founded in periods that date back to the Middle Ages.

The sanitary progress of these hospitals, where the care of the body was subject to the redemption of the soul, were very often centres of reference for the most important artists of the Renaissance who investigated the semiological and venous systems with the aim of an increasingly realistic reproduction of the human structure. These institutions therefore accumulated a substantial scientific and artistic heritage, which, in spite of various losses that took place, especially between the 19th and 20th centuries, offers some extremely important evidence in terms of artistic quality and quantity even today.

Interest in the protection and promotion of such assets is however a relatively recent event, usually because - in the last century - these assets represented a secondary aspect in the activities of institutions designed mainly for efficient medical care. Many of these ‘ancient’ hospitals have modified their use over the centuries; others have continued in their original capacity, managing to make the primitive structures function properly by carrying out renovations, extensions and architectural modernisation.

In the latter context, the need for a historical revival of the institution, carried out by means of the promotion of its artistic heritage, came about precisely as a result of the structural and functional improvements required to redesign the spaces and environments. This combination between a ‘top level hospital’ and a ‘structure aware of its historical genesis’ led to the desire to create museum routes within the various medical complexes, not only for the use of the general public but also, and perhaps above all, for ambulatory patients.

The museum project regarding the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence forms part of this cultural context. The hospital was founded in 1288 and boasts an uninterrupted medical activity right up to this day. Situated inside the ancient city centre, it is at present still in the throes of a decade of structural improvements aimed at structurally and functionally rehabilitating its health services. Its sanitary history was the privileged place of study for many important artists, among them and above all Leonardo da Vinci, universally famous for having carried out many anatomical dissections there. The museum project – an initiative shared with the Florentine Health Service (its present owner), the Region of Tuscany, the Centre of Documentation of the History of Welfare and Health, the Board of Historical, Artistic and Etnoanthropological Heritage and for the Museum Complex of the City of Florence (PSAE) and the Architectural Assets (BAPSAE), University of Florence – is complicated because of the quantity and importance of the works to be displayed (only the most significant of which have been recently restored), the characteristics of the hospital site itself, which has undergone more or less continuous alterations from the 17th century onwards, and because it is a sanitary structure that needs to be able to offer specific emergency services and an internal efficiency in a city centre characterised by the presence of a great many tourists and students, as well as a population of elderly residents.

We are well aware that the ‘case’ of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence is not unique, especially in Europe, and therefore we would like to dedicate a ‘page’ of our website on the planning experiences that other health institutions, with a similar history to that of the Florentine hospital, have carried out or are about to accomplish. The site is full of ideas and comparisons that are also particularly useful for this theme, dedicated to the continuous existence of a health structure that manages to retain its importance inside the city even today.

The contributions will be published online on the Centre of Documentation’s website (; it does not matter if they have not already been published (or have already been published) in other publications; there are no editorial regulations apart from the use of the font Times New Roman, size 12, line spacing 1,5. All languages are accepted with a preference for Italian and English.

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List of projects

Hospital de Santa Caterina - Girona

Museo Martinitt e Stelline - Milano

Il nuovo Museo degli Innocenti - Firenze

Santa Maria della Pietà - Venezia

Fondazione San Servolo - Venezia