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Crisis of Charity: Poverty and Disease in Renaissance Sources on Hospital Architecture

Sat, April 1, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Palmer House Hilton, Floor: Third Floor, Indiana Room


This paper addresses the cross-cultural circulation of ideas concerning social welfare and public health and its impact on hospital architecture in Italian and Iberian port cities. The context for this discussion is the development and diffusion of the cruciform plan, a design that led to the construction of general hospitals following more advanced medical measures, such as triage and isolation. The plan often appeared in conjunction with a state-imposed centralization of charity, characterized by the dissolution of inefficient medieval institutions and the construction of new imposing structures that often hid major social issues, such as the extreme poverty of beggars and contagious or chronic diseases, from public view. Using digital tools to map changes in charity in Renaissance port cities, this analysis concentrates on how primary sources negotiated these tensions and examines the impact of contemporary debates related to disease and poverty on hospital architecture.