Hospital of St. Lazarus

(12th century)

via Rimoldi, 5

The hospital developed around the end of the 12th century thanks to the activity of a group of men and women occupied with giving assistance to some lepers living in the Convalle di Como (Como valley). Within the end of the century the domus malsanorum had its organization and went under the authority of the bishop and of the cathedral canons, but already in 1203 it had become independent. In the second half of the 15th century it underwent the city community’s control and in 1481 it was incorporated with the hospitale novum (the hospital of St. Anne) but it preserved partially its old functions, since lepers and even people infected with the plague during epidemics kept on finding hospitality in it. Later, at least during the plague in 1630, the function of lazzaretto passed to St. Clement’s in Geno. After the deconsecration of the church of the ancient hospital in 1779, the complex was turned into a residence and storehouse; wide parts of the original building are still visible in via Rimoldi.

What documents tell us…

The oldest documentary evidence of lepers in the Convalle di Como, from a last will in 1186

In the name of God I, Volta, called Passera from Como, in order to save my soul and to give back what I hoarded with usury practice, do leave all my properties, houses and land located in Massano to the lepers living in the Convalle nearby Como and this right will be everlasting

From the records of town council, 1433

Since the podestà affirms (…) that a great number of pilgrims and other poor visitors complained that they had received neither hospitality nor handouts both inside and outside the city, with great disgrace for nobles and citizens of Como, and since an appreciable number of hospitals, richly equipped by the inhabitants of Como, are set in the city in order to lodge and give donations to the needy, St. Lazarus’ minister promises, in the presence of the Savi di provvisione (Wisest in the city council) he should give assistance up to four poor, in addiction to the lepers living there at the moment.

From the records of St. Anne’s, 1485

Tommasino, belonging to the third order, is asking the deputies of the Ospedale nuovo (New hospital) that the leprous daughter of Gabriele from Mariano is to be hosted in the houses of St. Lazarus’. Moreover, food will be charged to her as this is the custom with all those who suffer from this disease.


Main photo. Dance of Death which was frescoed on the gate of the in the second half of the 15th century, drawn by G. Pedraglio, 1828 (thanks to Musei Civici di Como, Archivio fotografico M.C. di Como)

Below. Donation of a lawn to the domus malsanorum and the church of St. Lazarus, 1197

Lombard painter, St. Anthony of Padua healing the Leper, 17th century (Schignano, church of Santa Maria Assunta)