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Divine Providence Hospital facilities (1796-1823)

Chosen the location of the new hospital – the Town Hall Square (also known as Old Square), at the time still considered "a noble space" –, its construction began in 1823, taking several years for its conclusion. Indeed, in 1835 the construction of the Hospital was not yet definitely concluded, although it started to function on the new premises immediately in 1823. In the 1850s new references emerge regarding works motivated by hygienic concerns and by the welfare of the patients, and several improvements were added to the Hospital, in a series of works that continued intermittently until 1911. The Divine Providence Hospital (nowadays, the City Hall), along with the palace of the Count of Amarante (currently, the headquarters of the Civil Government), are the two best examples of Classical-type architecture of Vila Real. The author of this innovative project was sensitive to the modernity of classicism, although following some late-Baroque guidelines that prevented him to provide the town with a neoclassical building. The advancement of the façade of the chapel, due to the overlapping of double corner pilasters, the door’s finial, as well as the curvature of the lintels of some openings, lead to solutions that do not define a total obedience to the neoclassical ideal. This choice does not eliminate the project’s elegance. Externally, it presents façades dominated by symmetry, with a series of gaps that allow the entrance of light and air as required by the new hospital architecture. We would also like to highlight the balanced proportions of its various bodies, especially the elegance of the pediment which completes the south façade, whose central verticality formed by the overlap of two openings (door and window) culminates with an urn, which replaces a cross that, before 1915, signalled that this façade corresponded to the Hospital’s chapel. The two-storey building had a patio with a balcony in the top floor, almost always referred to as the cloister. According to a blueprint that exists at the Divine Providence Hospital, the first floor included several divisions, among them four wards, an operating room, a pharmacy, a laboratory, and several rooms and other facilities. On the second floor there were five wards, including the ones of St. Jerome and St. Francis, a great hall, and several other rooms and facilities. Inside the Hospital, occupying the central part of the building’s south body, there was a chapel with the same height of the Hospital, a construction ordered in 1821 by Francisco Rodrigues de Freitas.

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