Many would think medicine and art would have nothing to do with each other. Going to Italy has shown me and my colleagues differently. The Santa Maria Della Scala showed me differently. The historic hospital has beautiful narrative frescos that tell the story of how the hospital was built. We saw the time, thought, and compassion in each painting. It gave me comfort to see this art in the hospital and I am sure the patients were too. Today, most hospitals have a sterile atmosphere with barely any color. Imagine what patient morale would be like if they could look at art instead of white walls.
Photo & text by Kayla Johnson
Learn more from Discover Tuscany:
The Complex of Santa Maria della Scala is one of the oldest “hospitals” in Europe. Established along the via Francigena, it sits right in front of Siena’s majestic Duomo and was thus the perfect site for welcoming travelers going along the pilgrimage route to Rome.
Santa Maria della Scala was one of the first European examples of a place completely dedicated to offering lodging and shelter to pilgrims, as well as offering support to the poor and a home to abandoned children – so it was hospital in the sense of hospitality!
Santa Maria della Scala also played an important role in the cultural scene of Siena. Many important artists worked here, such as Simone Martini, who frescoed the big cycle of the Stories of the Virgin(lost through time), Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti and later Sebastiano Conca.