The Foundling Hospital (“Hospital of abandoned children”) is located in Piazza Santissima Annunziata in Florence. It was the first foundling hospital specializing in Europe and one of the first Renaissance architecture, perhaps the first of its kind on the initial project of Filippo Brunelleschi. The name was inspired by the biblical episode of the Massacre of the Innocents.
The building was erected on a garden located next to the church of the Santissima Annunziata, sold at a special price by Rinaldo degli Albizi. The institution was created as part of a comprehensive program of health centers, promoted by the oligarchy in power to improve the lives of citizens, bringing better health and social care.
The porch was certainly the work of Brunelleschi and decorated with some lunette fresco: the oldest, dating back to 1459. It is 71 meters long and consists of nine bays with ribbed vaults and pointed arches resting on stone columns. Compared to the square is raised by a staircase and at the ends is flanked by two full bodies, bordered by fluted pilasters and with a portal each. The upper part is composed of a series of windows, underlined by a cornice and cover with a sloping roof with projecting eaves.
Inside you will be able to visit the Cloisters, the Church and the Museum where coming from the high altar of the church of the Hospital is the large altarpiece depicting the Adoration of the Magi, a masterpiece of Domenico Ghirlandaio on wood, painted from 1485 to 1488 in collaboration with Bartolomeo di Giovanni.
In 1756 the first experiment on vaccination against smallpox was carried out in the hospital.
Innocent creatures found place in this Hospital
On the Ruota degli Inncoenti where placed at night newborns which mothers could not take care, or those born from incestuous relationships between rich merchants and nobles and unofficial lovers.
The kids could be adopted, but more frequently were given to foster families that would return them at the age of seven. The males were trained with essential studies and then were sent in the workshops to learn a trade. The females, however, were often kept in the hospital for care of its operation and to work for the Art of Silk Road. Up to 25 year old girls dressed in white, then blue and, at 45, in black.
In Florence, the surnames “Innocent” or “Degl’Innocenti” or “Nocentini,” still widespread, are a legacy of the ancient name given to foundlings.
You can also visit the official web site of the Istituto degli Innocenti here