The Italian Hospital in Jerusalem is a building reminiscent in its plan and appearance of Italian buildings from the Middle Ages, a monument to a period of prosperity and the return of the city from a marginal city to the center of international interest.
More About the Italian Hospital in Jerusalem
Our story of the Italian Hospital in Jerusalem begins at the end of the 19th century, with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and its opening to the influences of European powers: France, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia fought for influence and prestige in the city of Jerusalem. Until then, the city was a neglected and marginal city at the edge of the Ottoman Empire, with a poor and disorganized population and a backward feudal economy.
The choice of Jerusalem as the arena of conflict between the powers was due to Christian religious belief combined with missionary activity and living memory of the days of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Street of the Prophets, one of the first streets in western Jerusalem that served as the main traffic route west from the Damascus Gate, was the center of the action, and along it (and the streets branching off from it), a large part of the construction activity of the European powers was concentrated.
The Italian government, similar to other powers and separately from the activities of the Holy See, sought to demonstrate its presence in Jerusalem by establishing an impressive hospital designed to provide its services to the local population and especially to the Catholic pilgrims who visited the city. The initiative, which came relatively late to the actions of the other powers, was started by an Italian Christian organization called “Associazione Nazionale per Soccorrere I Missioneri Italiani – ANSMI,” which purchased a plot of land that was owned by an Arab.
The Italian Hospital in Jerusalem: Planning & Construction
The cornerstone for the building was laid in 1910, and in 1912 the architect brothers Giulio and Antonio Barluzzi arrived in Jerusalem to engage in the design work of the building and unwittingly opened a new era in Jerusalem buildings. Antonio Barluzzi remained in Israel and served as an essential factor in the planning and construction of churches and monasteries throughout the country, particularly in Jerusalem.
In the twenties and thirties of the 20th century, he built and renovated churches in Jerusalem, established a hospice and a Franciscan church dedicated to the Good Shepherd in Jericho, and between 1937-1938 Barlozzi founded the church on Mount of Beatitudes. In later years – 1954-1955 – he built the Church of Dominus Flevit (Church Where Our Lord Wept) on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
Sources of Inspiration & Influence
The hospital building was designed in the style characteristic of Italian public buildings in Italy of the late Middle Ages, also known as the Italian Gothic style, characterized by elements such as pointed arches, pointed gables, towers, and especially stone decorations made in the form of lace and the many decorations and sculptural details that enveloped them.
In this context, the sources of inspiration for the hospital’s design can be seen in the Gothic Revival movement that tried to recreate the Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages in Europe with more modern means and contexts. The romantic movement of the 19th century, which admired this architecture as the splendor of romantic creation, significantly influenced the renewed flowering of Gothic art.
In general, the hospital building is reminiscent of famous Italian buildings such as the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence’s Signoria square, and Santa Maria del Fiore, which is the Duomo (cathedral) of Florence, alongside buildings in the city of Siena, As Torre del Mangia and the adjacent Palazzo Pubblico.
This fact made the building unusual not only in its surrounding landscape but also in the landscape of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. It was a conscious decision to adopt an unmistakable style whose identity is unquestionably Italian to make a political-political statement using architectural means.