Back in 1871, the huge hospital facility of Manicomio di Racconigi, Italy, was opened. This particular site was chosen so that the hospital would be centrally located in the province.
Before the Manicomio di Racconigi was built, the site already had several buildings on a plot of 20 hectares. These structures had been used first as a charity hospital then later as a military educational institution. Eventually, the college became a psychiatric hospital for the treatment of mentally ill patients.
When in use, the Manicomio di Racconigi could accommodate 1,400 patients.
Manicomio translates as “madhouse” in English, which was a term often used by the British for their own insane asylums. Such facilities used treatment methods that later came to be seen as cruel and unconventional. Because of this change of attitude, such hospitals were gradually closed.
The hospital had about 500 employees which included doctors, nurses, and maintenance staff. The hospital imposed on its patients such psychological treatment as electroshock therapy, experimental operations on the human nervous system, and other inhumane forms of treatment.
The Second World War was a particularly intense time for the hospital; the number of patients was never lower than 1,000 people. In the 1960s, the total number reached a peak of 1,400 patients.
In Italy, Law 180 (also known as Basaglia’s law) came into force in 1978. The legislation is named after the famous Italian psychiatrist Frank Basaglia. He proposed a new concept of psychiatry which was based on a humane approach to a sick patient.
He also insisted that the focus of psychiatric care should be on improving the patient’s health, rather than protecting society from those deemed mentally ill.
Following the introduction of Basaglia’s law, many psychiatric hospitals closed over the subsequent years. The Manicomio di Racconigi was no exception and was closed in 1981. The building was left to decay.
A visitor to this place can walk through the huge corridors which are now in a serious state of disrepair. The operating rooms and offices have been given up to nature. However, in the main building you can find less damaged operating rooms, where there is still a lot of equipment. Even the walls of the former hospital are markedly free from graffiti. A big thank you to Bas and please check out his excellent site www.maestro-photography.nl