S. Servolo Hospital 

At the end of the 600 the wars forced the Senate of Venice to provide assistance to the afflicted “poor soldiers” and the choice of a location for the foundation of a military hospital fell on the Island of S. Servolo, on which the “Milizia Hospital” was established. In 1715 the Priests from “S. Giovanni di Dio” and then  “FateBeneFratelli” were called to give assistance. It was here, in 1725 a man called Messer Stefani was hospitalized in the military hospital as “insane”  but only with the arrival and spirit of the French Revolution the City of Venice ordered the admission of the mentally insane at S. Servolo at the expenses of the revenue. The collaboration between the two hospitals, “Milizia” and Asylum of the insane, lasted until 1809, when S.Servolo then became the Venetian Central Insane Asylum for mixed sexes. After 1815 the commitment for the mentality ill developed and the theory of curing and healing was taken into consideration. Due to the over crowded structure, it was necessary to transfer some female insane patients to the Civil Hospital. The extreme social poverty at that time was such that Prosdocimo Salerio,  doctor and director of S.Servolo from 1847 to 1877, wrote that he was unable to dismiss the patients due to the poor conditions of their families.

With the twentieth century the criticism spread regarding the role of only assistance and custody. The protests arose for what in the nineteenth century was called “moral cures” but in reality often revealed to be cruelty and systems of enforcement on the patients,  while there were more possibilities due to pharmacological cures.

In 1902 the management of the S.Servolo and S.Clemente Hospitals were taken over by the Province of Venice. While in the forties remarkable progress was made on mental illness due to the major diffusion of psychotherapy methods, applied also at S. Servolo thanks to the initiative of G. Sacerdoti.

In 1967 Franco Basaglia entitled his book “What is psychiatry” and while interrogating himself, what is the science that up to now had given only negative solutions in the relationship with patients who remained excluded, not subject to cure but detention, started his battle to knock down the walls that surround mental asylums. This battle lead to the proclamation of the famous law 180 in 1978 which proclaimed the closure of the psychiatric hospitals.

In the Islands of the Lagoon we have seen convents transformed into medical structures in absentia which slowly degrade and disappear. Only the island of S. Servolo for long centuries convent of mediation and thought, then transformed in island of pain, as a  military hospital and then asylum for the insane, has now returned to be an island of culture and mediation, and archive of its medical history.