Ospedale degli Innocenti
Ospedale Degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) is an architectural milestone which became known in history as the place where children and infants could be taken care of. Beautifully and intricately built, this building is situated on the eastern side of the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata.
For more than four centuries, this historical and magnificent built building in Florence has been taking care of orphans, that were often abandoned in a basin which was located on the front portico. After 1660 the basin was removed and a wheel for secret refuge was installed in the basin’s place. This wheel consisted of a rotating door: once the child was laid onto the wheel, the door would have transferred the child into inner parts of the orphanage. This aided the people in remaining anonymous after leaving the babies.
This architecture of Ospedale degli Innocenti (also kwown as “Spedale degli Innocenti”, in tuscan dialect) is reminiscent of the Renaissance style of artistry.
The task of building and managing this structure was taken on by the Arte delle Seta (Silk Guild of Florence). This guild held the most wealth during that time, and therefore took over this philanthropic duty of overseeing the construction and management of this stunning piece of architecture. Its construction began in 1419, when the duty of designing fell on the shoulders of the great Filippo Brunelleschi, who succeeded in designing a spectacular work of art using his personals sense of proportion.
The architecture is simple yet attractive, with styles and designs which represent the architectural language of the 15th century. However, also the classical style of designing and constructing buildings was integrated in its architecture, proof of which can be seen in the semicircular windows.
The place was designed in a simplistic manner in order to lower the costs associated with its construction. Even though cost effective designs were created, along with not so alluring materials (grey stone), the end result came to be known as one of the most successful and original works in the history of architecture.
Ospedale degli Innocenti is famous for its lodge (portico), with the façade constituting nice arches, semicircular in shape and columns which stand in harmony with one another. The frescoes are located under the arcades, which is complementary to the consummate.
The ten terracotta medallions of infants – built with divine artistry by Andrea della Robbia – are exceptionally beautiful and are one of the many reasons why people from all over the world come to visit this place.
Also the church of the Hospital, Santa Maria degli Innocenti, was built with delicate precision: inside the church, the altar piece with the Coronation of the Virgin, by Neri di Bicci, will grab your attention right away. The church connects with a cloister which was magnificently designed by Brunelleschi.
The hospital was closed in 1875, and presently the building is home to visitors coming from all over the world to appreciate the Brunelleschi’s architectural style, and beauty and art it holds. Currently the building has a beautiful Gallery and a Museum. The Museum contains pictures, sculptures, and furniture from the eras, during which the orphanage was operational.
The Gallery has been located in the room in which the residing children played previously. The room is filled with rich cultural history, which includes outstanding exhibits and precious manuscripts. The gallery, furthermore, contains important artworks by famous artists as Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Piero di Cosimo, Luca della Robbia and other Renaissance masters.
The building also contains a frescoes collection, which is kept on the first floor. The collection was not originally part of the room. These frescoes were transferred into this hospital from their original locations, and includes works from artists like Bicci di Lorenzo, Lorenzo Monaco, Allori, Matteo Rosselli, Bernardino Poccetti etc.
Now that you know what an interesting place this is, be sure to visit it when you go to Florence. Touring around Italy won’t be complete without visiting Ospedale degli Innocenti.