Sankt Marien Heilstätte
Located at at an undisclosed place in Germany
Photo © 2009 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Sankt Marien Heilstätte* History
In 1895 a generous donation from a Thuringian nobleman was given to a church to establish a district hospital. Construction of a 60-bed sanatorium exclusively for women began in 1899 at a remote forest on a high plateau, over 1,800 feet above sea level. Work was difficult due to the rocky land and dense spruce forests which needed clearing. The hospital building was quite solid in construction to match the rough landscape, with granite walls up to the third floor. A central building that housed the church was attached to two wings via lofty hallways facing south. The hospital rooms also faced south for maximum sunlight and fresh air; other amenities included a library, gardens, day rooms and several residences.
The first patients were admitted in August 1902, receiving fresh air treatments (Freiluft-Liegekur) for tuberculosis. The average recommended stay was 3 and a half months. The recovery rates claimed by the sanatorium were quite good - one year, about 50% of one year's patients were reported as being fully recovered, and 30% as significantly improved. In 1909, the chief physician introduced lung collapse therapy and the hospital acquired an x-ray apparatus as well as state-of-the-art pneumothorax equipment. The capacity of the hospital was expanded to serve 88 patients, however as World War I occurred, further additions were stymied by inflation.
In 1927, the hospital expanded greatly by adding an entirely new wing on its western side, which included room for 45 more patients and space for a modern medical department. Old operating rooms were updated, and now thoracic surgery was possible. Further expansions in the 1930s led to a peak capacity of 180 beds. The decline of tuberculosis patients in the 1960s pushed the hospital to treat both male and female patients by 1962. The hospital was suddenly forced to cease operations on the last day of 1967 by order of the government, and the church had to relinquish the property to the GDR.
In 1968, the hospital was subleased to the National People's Army, and catered to East German border troops. Rehabilitation and prophylactic treatments were administered, along with specialty programs for spinal disorders as well as heart and circulatory diseases. A large security fence and manned gate were erected around the property, and patients were often left in solitude and suffered from idleness; the hospital even was known to have been referred to as the Faultierfarm (sloth-farm) offhandedly.
The sublease to the army was terminated in 1991, and the property was reverted to ownership of the church. Realizing the high maintenance costs of the aging structure, the church offered the sanatorium up for sale - many prospects were declined due to the church's high selling price. The land was eventually sold for a much lower cost in 2000, but plans for the place were scrapped. A subsequent buyer could not complete the vision of a sanatorium for those stricken with AIDS, even though renovations had begun. In the meantime, most of the valuable metal was stolen, such as ornate stair railings, copper heating pipe, and even the manhole covers outside.
In 2007 a fire burned the central theater (originally the chapel). Makeshift repairs were made, and the site is now guarded while the current owner plans to transform the land into a mountain resort.
* Note: the name "Sankt Marien Heilstätte" is a pseudonym; the real name of this location is currently undisclosed.