Manicomio di Voghera, Italy
Opening in 1876, the Manicomio of Voghera was a place of horror for it’s patients. The asylum closed in 1998 and is now in a state of decay.
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Like many of the asylums in Italy, the Manicomio of Voghera has an awful history of hardship amongst its patients. The ‘inmates’ were in the asylum to be hidden away from society, considered an object of shame.
Built in a neoclassical style in 1876, featuring impressive Italian gardens around the exterior. Nicknamed the Painful City, the hospital was a huge complex who’s patients were rarely released back into society. This was in no small part due to the ruthless treatment bestowed by the founder, Cesare Lombroso, an alienist (psychiatrist) who rejected most classical trains of thought on psychology.
With no real external governance, the patients became lab rats for Lombroso’s experiments, suffering all kinds of abuse. Many died from the experiments or the hardships of asylum life.
Upon arrival, new patients were immediately deprived of all their possessions and were placed in observation for a period of 28 days. After that time, a doctor made a decision as to which area of segregation they would be placed, dependant on their mental disorder – the “quiet”, the “almost quiet”, the “dirty and lame”, the “agitated” or the “sick and weak”. As for the treatment, until the early 1950s, the only methods of “care” were diabetic coma, electroshock and lobotomy. Generally, symptoms only worsened over time, recoveries were rare.
The patients were free to socialise with each other in common areas, until the moment they show excessively violent attitudes or pose a danger to any of the hospital’s 300 staff members. Such cases were locked away in a circular area of cells knows as the rotunda. The circular cells arranged around a semi-circular corridor had no corners and the beds were fastened to the ground.
Initially the hospital was split between into two, with half for male patients and the other for females. During the second half of the twentieth century, the distinction between sexes was removed. This led to the emergence of relationships between patients, including that of Luigina and Mario, who shared the same room. By the 1970s the treatment of patients was reformed. The asylum was eventually closed in 1998.