Located at an undisclosed place in Italy
Photo © 2009 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Manicomio Francesca* History
The city in which this hospital began was once a major silk manufacturer. Here, most residents labored at the factories as a living. Unfortunately there were periodic silk crises which left thousands of residents out of work, money, and food. The Congregation of Charity was appointed to design and construct a "workhouse" to take care of these displaced workers circa 1786. Completed in 1789, it also served as a kind of factory-hospital, providing shelter and a place to work for those displaced by the job market. Expansions to the factory-hospital were planned but the renovations dragged on for years due to the French occupation. When they were completed in 1834, the complex was being used as a boarding school for the children of soldiers.
In the late 1860s, the need for a provincial asylum for the insane was becoming more and more pressing. Not having the money to construct the facility from scratch, it was decided that the military academy would become home for 200 "maniaci poveri" (poor maniacs). Opened on July 4th 1870, the asylum welcomed its first two patients. The hospital consisted of treatment pavilions, clinics, operating theaters, gardens, chapel, and a large 10 acre agricultural colony, all within a securely walled complex. The population peaked at around 1,800 during World War I, then slowly dwindled over the years.
The passing of Law 180 in 1978 slated the hospital for a slow closure, as with most psychiatric institutions in Italy. By 1998 the capacity was reduced to 200; an article described hospital life as difficult, with strict codes of conduct, not much unlike a prison. The beautiful fountains and gardens were reputedly only visited by the doctors, while patients were confined inside the "island" that was the hospital. It was eventually completely shuttered later that year.
* Note: the name "Manicomio Francesca" is a pseudonym; the real name of this location is currently undisclosed.