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A Program Showcase: Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence, Italy

by Michael Kalinowski
May/June 2011
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/a-program-showcase/5019994/

In 1294, the powerful and prosperous Silk Weaver's Guild was named by the Florentine Republic as 'Protectors and Educators' of the city's abandoned children, and eventually all local and imported silk was taxed to help pay for the guild's efforts. This led to the creation of a new orphanage, a 'Hospital of the Innocents,' dedicated exclusively to the care of those children, "who are commonly called foundlings . . . whose fathers and mothers, against the law of human nature, have deserted them" (Piccini, 1977). The facility was perhaps the first institution continuously devoted to the welfare of young children, and cared for more than 375,000 infants and young children.

The orphanage was partially designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, a member of the Silk Guild, but who became better known for his design of a new technique for a self-supporting dome of the Duomo, the Florence cathedral. Brunelleschi conceptualized the hospital as part of a Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, a unified Florentine square that would create a sense of spaciousness. However, he did not see it through to completion. His design for the hospital is now considered a masterpiece, and architectural historians identify it as the first truly Renaissance structure. Construction commenced in ...

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