Echoes of abandoned children from centuries past
IF A society is valued by the way it treats its most vulnerable and innocent inhabitants, then early 15th century Florence surely must rank up there with the best.
Opened in 1444, the Ospedale di Santa Maria degli Innocenti was the first establishment in Europe entirely dedicated to the care of abandoned infants and children. Anyone even remotely interested in the history of medicine should include a tour of the hospital when visiting Florence; it is a very rewarding, yet sobering experience.
In its first year, 62 ‘foundlings’ were admitted and by the 18th century at least 1000 babies were being received each year. The hospital also gave outdoor relief to many poor families.