Szkoła dla chłopców przy Szpitalu Świętego Ducha w Rzymie w XVI-XVIII wieku

Marian Surdacki


The Holy Ghost Hospital was founded in Rome in 1198 by Pope Innocent III, and run by Holy Ghost Fathers. For many centuries it was the largest charitable institution in the whole Christian world. First of all, however, it played an exceptional role as a poor-house for abandoned children, most of them were illegitimate. On average, about 1000 children anjually were left at that institution in the period of the 17th-18th centuries. The abandoned children were left to be fed and brought up by substitute families with which they stayed until they were 11 (girls) or 12, and then returned to the hospital. The girls were then placed in a special ward, called “conservatorio”, and the boys stayed in a separate room: “scuola dei putti” (a school for boys). Contrary to the “conservatorio”, where there were always a few hundred girls, in the school for boys the number of residents was always about ten times lower and oscillated between 30 and 50 people.

Having returned to the hospitals, boys stayed relatively shorter periods in the “scuola dei putti”. They were cheap workforce, therefore the could find jobs with artisans, were taken as servants or apprentices. Sometimes, like the girls, they were adopted.

The man who took care and supervised the school for abandoned boys was a priest called school master. It was his job to keep order and discipline and to teach his charges to read, write, to teach them grammar, catechism, mercy, Christian piety, good manners and principles of good behaviour. The very name of the institution in which the boys stayed suggests that it had, above all, an educational character. Young residents were to gain some elementary knowledge as regards reading and writing, and to acquire basic religious and moral formation. Apart from religious practices and study, the boys were obliged to carry out some auxiliary jobs on behalf of the hospital. Thus they worked as stable boys, porters, caretakers, and kitchen helpers. Those who were talented in singing and music took part in the church choir, and the most talented were sent to universities or theological seminaries. The abandoned boys stayed for some time in their school, about a few months or years, and then, as it has been mentioned, were sent to artisans, where they continued their education and prepared themselves for adult life in a normal society.

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