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The Antonio Cardarelli
Some months ago, I
received this bit of correspondence:
During WW-2 I spent two months in the 17th General Hospital (US Army which I believe was in the Vomero section of Naples, set high overlooking the bay and an exquisite view of Vesuvius. From the balconies you had a picture postcard scene in view. Is the hospital still there? If you know, what is its name now?
I didn’t know the
answer, but that note was from one Fred Hellman
and led to his
contribution to the WWII Oral History items
in these pages. It also set me to finding out
about a bit of history of hospitals in Naples,
including the one that Fred had asked about, the
Antonio Cardarelli hospital (pictured,
Depending on how one defines “modern,” the first great wave of modern hospital building in Naples was an outgrowth of the Spanish incorporation of Naples as a vicerealm in the 1500s. Some of those hospitals still function today (the “Incurabili”, for example). Using a more modern definition of “modern,” in the early 1900s a section of the western end of the historic center of Naples (near the church of San Pietro a Maiella) was cleared to make room for the new Policlinic Hospital—now called (of course!) the "old" Policlinic Hospital.
Today, however, the “hospital
section” of Naples refers to the great number of
hospitals in the “high Vomero” section of the
city, way up on the hill on the way to the Camaldoli convent, a
section of Naples that was countryside until the
twentieth century. The major facility up there is
the university clinic, a mini-city known as the
New Policlinic, opened in 1973. The first major
modern hospital in that area, however, is the one
that Fred asked about—the Cardarelli.
aerial view of the Cardarelli in its role as
Construction of the
Cardarelli hospital (on a 28 hectar
site—about 70 acres) was started in 1927. The
architect was Alessandro Rimini. The Nuovo
Ospedale Moderno di Napoli (The New Modern
Hospital of Naples) was called, more simply, "The
23 Marzo" (March 23rd, the day on which the
Fascist Party was founded in 1919 by Mussolini).
It was opened in 1934. The entire grounds,
themselves, with various out-structures dedicated
to different specialties, were completed in
The life of the architect, Antonio Rimini, was dramatically shaped by war. He was born in 1898 in Palermo and studied art in Venice at the Academy of Fine Arts. He gave up his studies because of World War I, a war in which he was taken prisoner. He survived the life of a POW in Germany by bartering his sketches of other prisoners for food. He finally escaped to Holland. (He said of his wartime experiences, “I owe my life to my art.”) In the early 1920s, he got a degree in architecture and dedicated himself to the restoration of monuments, churches and other buildings. He quit that in the mid-1920s and went into free-lance architecture. Besides the Cardarelli hospital in Naples in 1927, he designed Milan's first skyscraper, the S. Babila building, in Milan (1936) as well as a number of other buildings in that city.
Rimini, however, was a Jew and thus
excluded from his professional guild in 1938 by
the Fascist racial laws. He was arrested by the
German SS in 1944 and interned at the camp in
Santa’Agata Fossili in the extreme north of Italy.
Then, however, he was put on a train bound for
Auschwitz. The good news is that once again his
art saved his life; he used his artistic skills to
dummy up an arm-band that identified him as a
member of the Italian police (the north was still
Fascist at the time); he then brazened his way
past his captors, got off the train and escaped to
freedom. He hid out in Milan under a false name
until war’s end. He took up his architecture
again, deserting it in 1955 for painting, his real
love. He died in Genova in 1976. The Cardarelli
hospital put on a Rimini exposition in 1997 on the
occasion of the 50th anniversary of the
founding of the hospital.