Hospital San Juan de Dios celebrates 450 years

Sister Joan Gerads

Iris Prieto, María Jose Baque and I attended the celebration of the 450 years of the Hospital San Juan de Dios in Quito.

We went to a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of the oldest hospital in the Americas, San Juan de Dios. We studied about this hospital in our nursing course on history. It was built in 1565 for indigents and it was supported by a "cofradía" (some type of benevolent foundation). There isn’t much history about how it functioned, only that it was THE ONLY HOSPITAL IN QUITO for years—until 1930!

In 1662, almost 100 years later, it had a hard time continuing to make ends meet and to give good service—but it continued.

In 1742, the municipal government of Quito took on the responsibility of renovating it completely. At this time someone met Saint John of God in Spain and convinced him to come with four brothers to attend the hospital. There were also quite a few Sisters of Charity, but at this time nobody seems to know much about their work in the hospital. They had some pictures of the sisters, but no history.

It is an absolutely magnificent structure with several courtyards where patients could walk, sit and rest. The beds were in separate alcoves with a curtain that could close off each alcove.

The conference we attended was in the chapel. I am sure you remember the ornate altars of the Compañía. This chapel is the same style, only smaller. There are nine altars and a pulpit all ornately carved and covered with hammered gold. It is really quite unbelievable for a hospital.

It was very educational. After the two hours of interesting talks, the organizer invited dialogue. Four people spoke—doctors, a priest of the order of Hospitalarios (the Order of Saint John of the Cross, and two other historians) who offered new information that the presenters did not have. I had the impression that all these groups are going to start working together as a result of the four days of conferences.


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The Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minnesota, is a community of Catholic women religious who follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, walking in the footsteps of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. We believe that the living of a poor, simple and prayerful community life is a ministry of presence and witness. Our doors are open to the public to celebrate Mass in Sacred Heart Chapel and to benefit from the St. Francis Music Center and St. Francis Health & Recreation Center. We welcome those who wish to join us as sisters, associates, volunteers, transfer sisters, friends and donors.


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