Saint Joseph Moscati
Antonio Tripodoro s.j.
The choice of the hospital work -
Manager of III Men Ward
Origins of Incurabili Hospital
The choice of the hospital work
After participating and winning the first place in the competition of 1911, Giuseppe Moscati opted for the hospital activity, without renouncing the scientific research and the university teaching. As we have told you before, the Ministry of Education appointed him the university teaching qualification in Physiological Chemistry, in the same year.
In the academic year 1917-18 (during the First World War) the Faculty of Medicine called it to substitute for the teacher Filippo Bottazzi in the official course of Physiology; in 1917-18 and 1919-20 in the course of Physiological Chemistry, while the same Bottazzi, manager of the Physiology Institute and then Chancellor of the University, put him, with the teacher Gaetano Quagliariello, in charge of scientific researches and experiments at the Institute of Physiological Chemistry.
At that time, Moscati was famous in medical circles for his activity as collaborator and editor of specialized magazines, backed and edited by teachers keeping alive the traditions of Neapolitan medical class. He wrote on Folia medica, Nuova Rivista clinico-terapeutica, Archivio di Scienze biologiche, Giornale Internazionale delle Scienze Mediche, Rinascenza Medica, Atti dell'Accademia medico-chirurgica, Riforma Medica. In 1911, Mr. Rummo, a teacher, proposed him to become correspondent writing for Riforma Medica because he could speak English and German very well. After the death of Rummo, the name of Moscati appears in the editorial staff.
From 1903, year of his degree, to 1916, scientific publications of Moscati are twenty-seven. Why did not Moscati get the chair even though he had such a didactic and scientific background? It is a question rising spontaneous and leaving much more perplexed, because we know that most of university teachers, as Domenico Cotugno, Salvatore Tommasi and Antonio Cardarelli, came just from the Incurabili hospital.
The answer is hard and complex, but the well-informed teacher Gaetano Quagliariello, help us:
"As it was necessary – he writes – to hold the chair of Physiological Chemistry, left vacant following the death of the teacher, Mr. Malerba, happened towards the end of 1917, and as the Faculty wanted to opt for him because he had already taught with satisfactory results for teachers and students, during the long period of the illness of Malerba and after his death, [Moscati] communicated he would not have accepted the charge, and suggested and recommended my name. So the charge was granted to me".
And he continues: "Just God knows how many generosity gestures he has done, because sometimes they left unknown even to those people who drew benefit " (1). It is the same declaration that Mr. Quagliariello, the teacher, made during the cause of beatification. This memory exalts the Moscati’s figure, but it does even honour to the man who has given a so explicit testimony. And, please mind you that Mr. Quagliariello was then the Chancellor of the university of Naples.
Staying still on the matter, he adds: " Moscati gave up the official teaching that he would have inevitably reached if only he had wanted, and he did that for love of his hospital and his students continually increased about him. Perhaps even for the desire to mortify an ambition that certainly he should possess in his youth. And only to legalize his clinic teaching, the more attended at the time in the Incurabili hospital, he asked and got, with the exemption from every test, the teaching of clinical medicine. And so, free of every terrestrial ambition, he devotes all himself, mind and heart, to his patients and to the education of young doctors. The hospital becomes his house, his love, his shrine ".
We think it right to underline the motivations identified by the teacher Quagliariello in order to explain why Moscati renounced the university chair. Apart from the respect and the sincere friendship that he had for his friend, Moscati renounced for love of his hospital. So every consideration becomes useless and the respect that we have for the science man becomes a rightful admiration and a deep veneration. Just a noble mind, touched from the grace of God and docile to the calls of the spirit, were able to arrive at such spiritual height and direct the life towards a so high and sublime destination
In 1921, writing to a friend, he will define the medical profession a sublime mission. After this conscious choice, the teacher Moscati tends definitely towards the hospital work and along the wards he takes up time, experience, human ability and supernatural endowment.
Manager of III Men Ward (III Sala Uomini)
Patients, their illnesses and physical and spiritual poverties will be always at the highest point of his thoughts, because, in accordance with his words, " they are the figures of Jesus Christ, immortal and divine souls. We must love them like ourselves as the evangelical precept tells us. ". These are the convictions he always demonstrates in his writings, particularly when he talks to his colleagues, to remember that " the pain has to be consider not as a wriggle or a muscular contraction, but as the cry of a soul, to which another brother, the physician, hastens with the passion of his love, the charity ".
Obviously, the fame of Moscati could not remain in the narrow walls of the classrooms, neither in the wards: people spoke about his lessons, his diagnostic abilities, and his work among patients. The board of directors of the Incurabili hospital officially intervened and in 1919 named him Manager of III Men Ward. Considering the appreciations for the work of Moscati and the references to his new title we have to think that this further promotion was a joy for his friends, assistants and pupils. Nobody else could aspire to this appointment and nobody else could get it. He was happy, but, as always it happened to him, the human satisfaction was not disjoined from the spiritual one, that flew over the contingent motives and took root on noble and high motivations. Successes in hospital did not have to concern his person, but just patients: he worked for them. This is the sense of a letter wrote in July 26, 1919 ( 2):
Dear Mr. President of the Reunited Hospitals of Naples, Senator D’Andrea. I thank you and the Board of Directors warmly for the promotion you granted to me as Ward Manager. When I was a boy I looked with interest to the Incurabili hospital as my father showed me that far from the house terrace. It inspired me pity feelings for the pain without name, calmed in those walls. A beneficial dismay took me and I started to think about the frailty of all the things, and the illusions passed, as falling flowers of the orange groves surrounding me.
Then I was completely fallen in my starting literary studies, and I did not suspect or dream that, a day, in that white building, to whose large windows patients were hardly visible, as white ghosts, I would have held the supreme clinical degree. A lot of memories, the dearest ones blowing up me the heart, dragging me to the lips words of thanks, of rightful thankfulness, no bureaucratic at all.
I will try, with the God help, with my minimal strengths, to deserve your complete trust, and to collaborate to the economic reconstruction of the old Neapolitan hospitals, so well deserving in term of charity and culture, and nowadays so poor. Yours Giuseppe Moscati.
Origins of the Incurabili Hospital
Certainly, the Incurabili Hospital was famous for charity and culture and Moscati worked there. The hospital consisted of many buildings, opened passages, galleries, classrooms, corridors, and studies, surrounded from gardens, cloisters, and fountains.
There were many patients and many famous clinicians, assistants, nurses and young students. Also, many university courses were given thanks to famous men, as Leonardo Bianchi, Gaetano Rummo, Domenico Capozzi, Antonio Cardarelli.
The Incurabili hospital, with the attached church of Santa Maria of the People (S.Maria del Popolo), boasts very ancient origins, and it is not only a nursing home, but also a place of faith, pity and mercy. At the end of 1400 in Italy, and especially in Naples, following the descent of Charles VIII, it started to spread the so-called French sickness or dermatoceltic sickness. Infected people were considered incurable. The Christian charity started at once to be interested in these unhappy poor men and everywhere quarantine hospitals and charitable institutions rose.
One of them opened in 1497, near the church of Carmine: it was the first Incurabili in the city of Naples. But the person who founded the more famous hospital still bearing today this name was a woman of Catalan origin, Maria Richeza. She came in Italy in 1506 with her husband Giovanni Longo, as members of Ferdinand III the Catholic’s suite. She was a paralytic poor woman owing to a poisoning perpetrated by one of her maids during a banquet. The illustrious jurisconsult Giovanni Longo, a very important Minister of State, at the end of June 1507 returned with his king in Spain. His wife remained in Naples with her three (?) children and her son-in-law. Unfortunately, two years after, her Spanish noble husband died and Maria never left the Neapolitan city.
In 1510, when she was forty-seven, she went to Loreto on a pilgrimage, and there, in the house of the Lady, she made a vow: if she had got the recovery she would have spent her existence by doing works of charity, to the service of the sick persons. The miracle happened after the celebration of the Mass and she, as a gratitude sign, before starting the return trip, wanted to wear the suit of the Franciscan Third Order, assuming the name of Maria Laurenzia.
After the recovery, the activity of Maria did not know standstills. She went to the numerous houses of beneficence and hospitals; she looked after patients and took care of them, and tried to involve other women in her charitable work. She spent many years in the hospital of Saint Nicholas at Piliero dock, in the neighbourhood of Castel Nuovo, the present Maschio Angioino.
But a turning point in her life and activities came from a Genoese notary, Don Ettore Vernazza in 1518. He was a charitable man and went round Italy, promoting the work of the incurables. He had already been in Genoa, Venice, Rome and other cities, and wanted to go to Naples, where hospitals abounded, but patients, too. When he met Maria Longo and demonstrated his project to her, she accepted overcoming her resistance, since at first she felt unprepared for a so high task.
Other persons were involved, many plans were discussed at length, till February 10, 1520, a contract was stipulated for the acquisition of houses and gardens on the high ground of Sant'Angelo, in the seat of Montagna. Maria Longo was to the first place among the stipulators. In the same year, works of the Incurabili hospital started. It was destined to become the bigger and more important hospital in Naples, and all over Italy.
"The imposing lines of the building - Father Agostino Falanga writes - reveal the spirit of the time; a stately portal of Vesuvian `piperno' (pietrarsa), opens the entry to the vast courtyard; starting from here there are staircases with flights, harmonizing with the architectural whole and leading to the wards. Cloisters, gardens, fountains gladdened the place, similar to Chartreuse, in some points.
As the years went by the hospital preserved the name "Incurabili", even if it was the true metropolitan establishment for all people and all diseases. Its foundation is one of the most beautiful page of the Neapolitan history, pages where you can find religion and civilization, science and faith handing down to posterity the pity of the ancestors ( 3)".
Adrian IV, the pope, was in favour of the project. It was compiled a constitution of the new hospital and in 1522 first incurable poor men took possession of their hospital. In spite of her reluctances, Mary was the Chancellor or Manager of the hospital. As a consequence, good part of the work was on her hands: she had to control the flow of patients, prepare services, and regulate activities.
Maria Longo founded the Franciscan sisters Third Order in 1533, that is the order of Capuchins, famous still today in Naples under the name of thirty-three; she was again tested by God, because the ancient paralysis returned and, after sixteen years of intense work, she left the Incurabili. She was ill but she always remained a clear-minded person, ardent of charity.
She had the joy to be driven and supported by Saint Gaetano Thiene, and lived seven other years in seclusion among her nuns. It was a time spent in prayer and penitence and, in spite of the subversive theories of Juan de Valdés, rushed on the order of the Capuchins, she remained faithful to God and to the church till the death, happened in 1542.
Father Falanga tells us that twenty-five among saints, blessed and venerable people have been connected with the Incurabili hospital, as Saint Gaetano Thiene (1480-1716); Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori (1696-1787), Sainte Giovanna Antida Thouret (1765-1826), the Venerable Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1892), the blessed Ludovico from Casoria (1814-1885), the blessed Bartolo Longo (1841-1926) and, I complete in time order, Saint Joseph Moscati (San Giuseppe Moscati).
Unfortunately, part of the Incurabili hospital (included Moscati’s ward) has been destroyed in the last war. However, it is still possible admire the ancient grandeur, and, particularly the pharmacy, rich of elegant walnut hacklers, blown glasses and above all of polychrome vases: stupendous Neapolitan eighteenth-century majolica.
1. Gaetano Quagliariello, Giuseppe Moscati, in Medicus, IV, 1948, pp.86-100.
2. Alfredo Marranzini s.j., Giuseppe Moscati modello del laico cristiano di oggi, AVE, Rome 1989, pp.110-111.
3. A.Falanga, La Venerabile Maria Lorenza Longo, Laurenziana, Naples 1973.