Ospizio dei Trovatelli, Foundlings Hospital
The Foundlings’ Hospital (Ospizio dei Trovatelli) was built in 1315, following the battle of Montecatini. The building, annexed to the church of S. Giorgio dei Tedeschi, was originally called Ospedale della Pace e del Principe (Hospital of Peace and the Prince); it provided about twenty beds for the sick. In the early 14th century it became a foundlings’ hospital, in an attempt to put an end to the ancient widespread custom of abandoning newborn babies, and was dedicated to the Blessed Domenico Vernagalli, the 13th century founder of the first institute for abandoned newborn babies in Pisa (at that time annexed to the S. Michele in Borgo church). The change in function and name of the building are recorded in a Bull of Pope Martin V in 1419 and in an anonymous 17th century manuscript. At the end of the 17th century, after the health reform of Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Toscany the Ospizio dei Trovatelli was annexed to the S. Chiara Hospital.
The Hospital was provided with a “wheel” that is, a revolving wooden drum with a grating, on the outer wall of the building in a window. The unwanted child placed here could be recovered from the inside of the window; the grating was to limit the number of children by preventing access to all but the newborn. The wheel was moved to its present position in 1921.
The original medieval facade was redesigned during the Renaissance. There is a carving of a baby in swaddling bands over the door.