Saint John’s Hospital has an eight hundred-year-old history of caring for pilgrims, travelers and the sick. Visit the medieval wards where the nuns and monks performed their work of mercy, as well as the chapel, and marvel at the impressive collection of archives, art works, medical instruments and six paintings by Hans Memling. Also worth a visit: the Diksmuide attic, the old dormitory, the adjoining custodian’s room and the pharmacy.
The old infirmary took patients in from the 12th to the middle of the 19th century. Initially anyone in need of food or a bed could come here. The nuns, however, had limited medical knowledge and devoted themselves mainly to the care of the soul. Paintings and sculptures of healing saints, reliquaries, and an atmospheric chapel bear witness to a strong faith. In the 19th century the hospital moved to a nearby neo-gothic building of bright red brick, where patients could go until 1978.
The nuns owned unique artistic treasures that they exhibited for the first time in 1839 in the chapter house. The museum is now located in the old infirmary. The fact that the art objects are so closely connected to the location and its former inhabitants lends the museum an added value. Furthermore, many objects were specially commissioned by the hospital community and depict the patrons.
Sint-Janshospitaal owns six masterpieces by the Flemish primitive artist Hans Memling, as well as many religious paintings and sculptures. Objects of applied art, such as furniture, silverwork, medical instruments, reliquaries, archive documents, and apothecary pots reflect 800 years of care.
Sint-Janshospitaal is one of the oldest preserved hospital buildings in Europe. In the museum, you can learn more about hospital life in the past and how the wards would have looked then. Furniture, paintings, sculptures, silverware, and pewter ware are the silent witnesses of the care for bodies and souls that took place in this hospital through the centuries. The building’s supporting framework is also unique and is one of the oldest and largest in Europe. The old apothecary’s and herb garden is also well worth a visit. In the hospital chapel, the focus is all on the work of the most famous of the Flemish Primitives: Hans Memling. This painter lived and worked in Bruges in the 15th century and created his most important masterpieces here, including the famous Shrine of St Ursula, which was painted specifically for Sint-Janshospitaal.