Long Ago in Spoleto: 1940, the dukes of Spoleto visit the new hospital

19 May, 1940: the dukes of Spoleto Aimone di Savoia-Aosta and Irene di Grecia visit Spoleto’s new hospital

On 31 January 1931, prompted by the then President of the Congregation of Charity Pompeo Pompei, a very detailed publication was printed, a studied and well-considered research ‘to address in a concrete manner the serious problem of the new hospital in Spoleto […] in a detailed exposition of the funds available for the construction of the hospital, which as at 31 December amounted to Lire 1,120,824.42’.

This document would lead to a series of actions and initiatives which, within a couple of years, would help identifya piece of land owned by the Travaglini Counts in order to obtain, together with the area occupied by the Conventual Friars Minor in the premises of the former Barnabite College of Our Lady of Loreto, a suitable site for the construction of the city’s new, modern hospital. The spaces of the old hospital structure in the former monastery in the village of San Matteo were too dilapidated and unfit, with obsolete equipment and precarious hygienic conditions, too far from the criteria of modern medical practice and the best health standards allowed at the time.

“The Spoleto hospital is not an accomplished facility, in it we find all the defects, shortcomings and drawbacks the old convent has, compared to a modern building complying to the rules of hygiene and economy”: these were the words spoken two decades earlier by Pasquale Laureti in a publication of 1911, entitled “Per la nascita di un ospedale” (For the birth of a hospital) which is a collection of articles written for the “Giovane Umbria“.

The hospital was a hot topic in the city. The newspapers of the time were flooded with expressions such as “serious, unsolved problem, the most keenly felt, longed-for aspiration, indispensable work“.

“L’Alta Spoleto’, a publication by the Pro Loco, closely followed the progress of the construction of the new civil hospital in Loreto. In the issue of 21 July 1934, it is stated as already ‘established that the building of the old farm and the new Barnabite monastery, next to the church of Loreto (editor’s note) will become the site of the city’s future, modern hospital’.

In its issue of 27 April 1935, ‘L’Alta Spoleto’ featured the main façade of the new hospital, according to a project that involved more than 70 workers and which was due to start work in the next few days.

The official handover took place on Saturday 15 June 1935, with construction work scheduled for the following Monday. It is no coincidence that the publication – which at the time showed ‘Settimanale Fascista’ in its masthead – proudly emphasised that the inauguration had already been set for the following year, on the fateful date of 21 April. Yet on 22 June, demolition work was still in progress. On 27 July, the monastery building was completely cleared. On September 14, 1935, a more dense article recalls the numerous oblations and contributions made to the hospital by private individuals and organisations since 1932 and stresses that “The congregational administration still has at its disposal the sum of 1,061,088.42 lire for the construction and modern equipment of the new hospital”. Another update came on 28 September. Demolition work is almost complete, the new buildings are at an advanced stage and ‘construction of the necrological pavilion has begun’.

On 24 December 1935, in a sort of public ceremony in front of a number of dignitaries in the premises of the Pro-Spoleto Association, a sketch of the hospital was exhibited, made by the craftsman Orlando Barberini, based on a drawing by Alberto Ricordi, director of the municipal technical office and author of the construction project. The article emphasised that the estimated cost of the work was 600,000 lire for the transformation of the building and 700,000 lire for the placement of the sanitary installations and scientific cabinets, that the new hospital would be able to accommodate one hundred beds and that it was thanks to the will and ability of Podestà Domenico Spinelli, who was able to resolve the problem by “overcoming all kinds of difficulties” that a long-awaited result was achieved.

Alta Spoleto | 21.7.1934

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On 1 February, the masonry work reached a point where the new floors could be built. The number of workers is now down to 35. In the meantime time passed and so did the hope of inaugurating the structure on 21 April, so much so that on 4 June the newspaper hoped that the President of the Congregation of Charity would make himself heard so that everything could proceed more quickly. On 13 June, the structure of the building was almost complete, but there were difficulties in obtaining materials. On 2 August, another update: the writer of the article had the opportunity to visit the interior of the hospital under construction and was impressed by the vastness of the rooms and spaces. Small changes were also reported: the façade on Collerisana was to be rebuilt “removing the current baroque plaster superstructures, in order to obtain an organic, decent whole”.

On 3 October, as the possibility of inaugurating the new hospital by 1936 had proved impractical, the newspaper spoke exclusively of the building material used for its construction, celebrating the autarkic nature of “populit”, an Italian-made material with special characteristics and features that allowed considerable savings to be made and speeded up the work. 24 October is an opportunity to honour the memory of those who, in the long time between the idea and its realisation, supported the hospital financially.

More months passed. This brings us to 22 May 1937. Another inspection, this time together with the President of the Congregazione di Carità Peppino Del Rio. The hospital was almost completed, and its architectural lines and particular location were appreciated. But alas, much time still had to pass before it could open.

Save for a brief mention in the 16 October 1937 issue, among the public works planned in the municipal budget, the new hospital is only mentioned again in the 29 October 1938 issue. This time we are there. Again coinciding with a fascist anniversary, on the occasion of the sixteenth anniversary of the March on Rome, the age-old aspiration to have a modern and functional hospital found concrete fulfilment. On 28 October, two important public works were inaugurated in Spoleto: the new hospital and the Cerquiglia primary school.

On 28 January 1939, the Alta Spoleto newspaper reported that the new hospital was not yet operational: it would not be until 11 March, the newspaper said, that the sick would be transferred from the old hospital in the former monastery of San Matteo to the new building next to the Church of Loreto.

Ospedale di Spoleto

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Some time later, on 19 May 1940, during the visit to the city of the Dukes of Spoleto, Aimone of Savoy-Aosta and Irene of Greece, one of the most photographed stops was the new hospital in Spoleto. There are several snapshots in which the Princess of Greece is seen with the sick or admiring the modern spaces and new equipment of the hospital, accompanied by the hospital’s head physician, Fabiano Benedetti Valentini.

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