The Ospedale del Ceppo is one of Pistoia’s landmark buildings. The hospital was founded in 1277 but a Renaissance expansion under the direction of Michelozzo puts the architecture in close relation with that of Brunelleschi at Florence’s Ospedale degli Innocenti.
On its façade is a long frieze in tin-glazed maiolica from the Della Robbia workshop under the direction of Benedetto Buglioni and Giovanni della Robbia, carried out from 1515-25. The detailed work, composed of multiple parts and with life-sized figures, represents the seven tasks of Misericordia and is one of the most important artistic treasures of Pistoia.
The colourful figures show charity in action towards the poor, widows, the sick and pilgrims, with expressive poses and realistic facial expressions that rival the best paintings of the day. Recognized as a work worthy of an international public, it has even been reproduced in full-size copies, one of which you can see in Moscow at the Pushkin museum! From the ground, the frieze, set above the graceful arcade of the hospital’s loggia, is impressive, but when you come face to face with it you realize the true extent of the Della Robbia’s artistic prowess. This summer there’s a unique opportunity to visit the scaffolding before it comes down at the beginning of September.
The frieze has recently been the subject of a major restoration that also addresses the rest of the façade, the loggiato out front of the ex-hospital and renovation inside the building’s entry hall to create an educational museum about healthcare in Pistoia from 1277 to the modern day. The cost of restoring the frieze alone is 135.766 euro, while the restoration as a whole cost over a million euro.
Four visits per day for up to 12 people will be held through August 31, 2015. 40 minute tours begin at 10.30 – 11.20 – 15.30 – 16.20. Visits cost 6,50 euro per adult. Tours in English upon reservation. Please wear sensible footwear. For reservations please call or email 0573/368023 email@example.com.
How to get to Pistoia: From Florence SMN train station, there are frequent trains (2/3 per hour) that take as little as 33 minutes and cost 4,30€ each way. It’s a 20 minute walk to the Ospedale from the Station.
With thanks to Discover Pistoia for the information. All photos copyright Nicolò Begliomini.