Visiting Siena I came to learn that opposite the wonderful cathedral is a charitable hospital called Santa Maria della Scala that was founded, if I remember rightly, some 800 years ago. It was a charitable venture like St Bart’s in London. And like St Bart’s, it has some wonderful art in it. It was, also like the British charitable hospitals, taken over by the government. The last ward was apparently only closed quite recently. The ill found themselves surrounded with early renaissance frescoes.
Wherever one goes, if one’s eyes are open, one comes across welfare provision before welfare states took over.
This does not prove this kind of provision (alongside the family, mutual organisations, friendly societies and self-support) was better. But many people are not aware at all that, prior to government welfare, that there was any welfare provision at all.
Below is a little more about it:
It is called della Scala because of its location, opposite the steps at the front of the Duomo.
Inside, the most notable room is the pilgrims’ great hall which, until the 1970s, was used as an infirmary. The frescoes covering this spacious room are mainly by Sienese artists from the 15th century. The best known of these are Lorenzo di Pietro, il Vecchietta, and more interestingly Domenico di Bartolo whose paintings show how the hospital functioned and the importance it had for the people of Sienna of the time.
Santa Maria della Scala
The building Santa Maria della Scala takes up an area of about 350,000 square meters and was originally built as a city hospital, one of the first to be built in Italy. Today, many parts of the building have been recovered thanks to a massive restoration program, and exhibition spaces for Siena and international artists are now available. Inside the building it is possible to see three chapels, the Cappella del Manto, the Cappella della Madonna, the Cappella del Sacro Chiodo and the Church of the Santissima Annunziata.
From a site called Nozio.