Modern Medicine and the Middle Ages (Glen)

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Barcelona is rich with cathedrals, art museums, modernisme architecture, and incredible natural resources. Visiting these spots leaves you both with a feeling of awe, and sheer exhaustion from having to navigate through a massive number of people all wanting to get a glimpse of the same thing you want to see.

This week, Julie and I stumbled across a UNESCO World Heritage site that is just as awe inspiring as any other…but with no crush of tourists. It was the Sant Pau Hospital.

Here’s a brief history of this incredible place –

old hospital(Networking hospitals together – The Early 1400’s) At the start of the fifteenth century, Barcelona had a total of six small hospitals. Early in 1401, the financial difficulties besetting many of these small hospitals led to the construction of a single facility: The hospital of the Santa Creu (Holy Cross) and Sant Pau (Saint Paul).
The new center, one of the oldest in the world, was conceived as a large building with four rectangular two-story wings set around a central courtyard, following the model of an ecclesiastical cloister.

(Research and Teaching) The hospital made a crucial contribution to the evolution of medicine. Its medical work led to the founding of the Royal College of Surgery, the origin of the future School of Medicine. In fact, from the nineteenth century the hospital was engaged in the intense scientific and educational activity that established its reputation as a medical center of the first order.

IMG_5052(Cutting edge / functional design) During this period of Barcelona’s expansion, a rich Catalan banker, Pau Gil, died. Gil established in his will that his estate be devoted to building a new hospital in Barcelona, and made it clear that the new center should bring together the latest innovations in technology, architecture and medicine, and be dedicated to Saint Paul. The job of designing the new hospital was entrusted to Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850-1923), one of the outstanding figures of Catalan Modernisme.

In drawing up his project, the great architect was inspired by the most modern hospitals in Europe. Embracing the latest thinking on sanitation and hygiene, he designed a hospital organized as a series of separate pavilions, surrounded by gardens and interconnected by a network of underground tunnels.

Each building was assigned to a different medical specialty. The natural lighting, the good ventilation and the restrained elegance of the décor made the new hospital a unique place in the world, a pioneering model hospital which affirmed the importance of open space and sunlight in the treatment of patients.

Julie and I were amazed and a bit humbled by the innovations launched in this incredible space. It was yet another reminder of why are so glad that we have traveled to other countries and experienced the contributions they have added to our world.

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1 Comment

  1. Molly Calhoun says

    This experience sets you up beautifully to read “God’s Hotel” by Victoria Sweet…it’s about the last almshouse in the US – Laguna Honda near San Francisco. It is really about modern vs. pre-modern medicine, how we should set up our hospitals for compassionate patient care and the life-giving connections between body, mind and spirit. This is the doctor who after being troubled by the direction of medicine, spent her summers caring for her own body, mind and spirit by hiking St. James Way. Kindred spirits…..

    Liked by 1 person

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