San Juan de Dios Hospital is doubtlessly one of the most representative buildings in the city, with a level of architectural importance and heritage that is superseded by its role as a charitable institution and the head office of the Hospitaller Order, with centres worldwide. The landmark is comprised of two buildings: on the one side the Hospital of Sain John of God, San Juan de Dios Hospital, and on the other side, the Church Basilica of San Juan de Dios.
History of San Juan de Dios Hospital
The hospital of San Juan de Dios, known in the 16th and start of the 17th century as “The Hospital of John”, which was established first in the street Calle Lucena, and in 1539 and afterwards, in 1547, on Cuesta de Gomérez, finally reaching its definitive resting place at this location. The building belonged to the Brothers the Order of Saint Jerome (San Jerónimo) and this was where the order’s first monastery was. Later it was a refuge for travellers and pilgrims.
In the decade of 1540-50 the Jeronimos ceded the plot to the Hospitallers, who started building the new hospital according to plans drawn up by Juan de Maeda. In 1593, after a lengthy lawsuit with the Jerónimos, it became property of the Hospitaller Order. The main renovations and noteworthy parts of the building were done in the 17th century, starting with the façade, the main courtyard and the stairs, between 1733 and 1759 construction on the basilica dedicated to the saint and the second cloister of the hospital.
With the ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal, in 1836, the building became the property of the state and, afterwards, to the Provincial Council, operating as a health centre run by the sisters of Caridad de San Vicente de Paúl until the 1990s. It currently provides government health services, while awaiting renovation and a new functional purpose.
Cultural Patrimony of San Juan de Dios
It has two courtyards with a number of rooms around them, renovated many times over recent centuries. The oldest identifiable one is the coffered ceiling in the first chapel, part of which is visible in the current hall. The façade was finished in 1609, possibly designed by Ambrosio de Vico. It was done in grey stone from Sierra Elvira and marble from Macael. The niche in the upper part that houses the stone statue of the passing or death of the founding saint. The back of the niche is a canvas which attempts to depict the room where the saint died, and when he felt himself on the verge of death, got out of bed, kneeled down and then embracing the cross, passed away.
The main courtyard is accessed through a wide hall. It is made up of four galleries on two floors. The third figure on the side of the church is a later addition. The walls of the lower galleries have a set of canvases and mural paintings depicting the life of San Juan de Dios, done between 1749 and 1759. Despite their state, they bear witness to great devotional and celebratory importance. There is a baroque fountain in the middle of the courtyard with the emblem of the order. Underneath it lies a large cistern.
The main staircase is, doubtlessly, one of the crowning achievements of the hospital. José de Bada made it in 1737 with great baroque ornamentation and it is covered by a large golden lacquered pottery. In its walls pictures, of Juan de Sevilla are exposed.
In the old chapter room of the brothers’ hospital, the plasters that divided it in rooms for the sick persons have been removed and its rich mudejar coffered ceilings have been restored. Presiding over it, the picture El incendio del hospital (Th hospital Fire), by the Granadian Manuel Gómez Moreno, previously in the Museum of Fine Arts, is exhibited.