In these days when we all look with admiration at the doctors, nurses and healthcare staff, we approach the medieval hospital of Barcelona. Are you with us?
At the beginning of the 14th century, Barcelona’s hospitals were in a very precarious situation. The successive epidemics of plague that affected the population during that century caused that around 1370, the municipal authorities decided to remodel the main hospital of the city, the hospital of Desvilar.
The new hospital was started in 1401 and was the result of the merger of four small hospital centers. Two of them managed by the Cathedral Chapter: the hospitals of the canons Colom i Vilar. The other two managed by the Consell de Cent, the medieval City Hall: the Marcús and Desvilar hospital.
To manage the new hospital it was decided to create a new institution, with a curious name. The M.I.A., the Most Illustrious Administration was founded with that objective in mind and was composed of two canons and two city councilors.
That same year it was expanded with the addition of the old leper hospital, the Sant Llàtzer hospital and the Santa Eulalia hospital, which used to be the Convalescence House.
Public Health in the 15th Century?
The new health center had a capacity of five hundred beds. It provided medical care, but also assistance care, to everyone: citizens, travelers, pilgrims or the homeless, FOR FREE.
Medieval hospitals operated on money from charity, fromalms, testamentary legacies, and the voluntary work of religious fraternities and brotherhoods.
But, that wasn’t the only way the hospital was funded.
Often the revenue on these roads was not enough. So the hospitals had a number of privileges granted by the authorities that allowed them to get the necessary income.
One of the privileges enjoyed by the Hospital de la Santa Creu was that King Marti I allowed him, on 1405, to keep all the personal properties of the deceased in the hospital without descendants. Thus, in a few years, the Hospital de la Santa Creu became the main owner of farms and land in the city.
But perhaps the best known of the privileges was comedy. The hospital reserved the right to represent comedies in the city. These performances were performed at the Corral de les Comedies, today the Principal Theater.
The old hospital operated until the beginning of the 20th century. The growth of the city forced it to modernize again.
But we’ll tell you this part of the story another day.