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Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Sierra, Psychiatry Service, Hospital la Fe, Avda. de Campanar 21, Valencia 46009, Spain; firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail). Painting reproduced with the permission of the Diputación de Valencia, Valencia, Spain (Fray Gilabert Jofré amparando a un loco [Father Gilabert Jofré protecting an insane person], by Joaquin Sorolla Bastida, 1887, oil on canvas, 202×150 cm). Image accepted for publication May 2009.
Copyright © American Psychiatric Association
On the morning of Feb. 24, 1409, while Friar Jofré (1350—1417) was heading to the Cathedral of Valencia to preach the sermon on the first Sunday of Lent, he saw a crowd mistreating and making fun of a mentally ill man. Outraged, he spoke in his sermon about the need for an institution for the mentally ill (1, 2). Ten merchants offered to provide the necessary funds to carry out Friar Jofré's request, and on March 15, 1410, the building of a hospital, Spital Dels Folls, Orats, e Ignocents (Hospital of the Lunatics, Insane, and Innocents), began (2).
Friar Jofré rescued Christian captives as a Mercedarian friar in North Africa. In his missions he may have heard about hospitals for the mentally ill that already existed in the Arab world (3). He may also have met Christians admitted to such hospitals suffering from pellagra (2). Although some hospitals in England and Germany admitted mentally ill patients, this hospital was the first one built only for that purpose (4). The Spanish humanistic tradition regarding the mentally ill spread throughout Iberia and then to the Hispanic Americas (5, 6). Philippe Pinel would later praise the occupational therapy used for treatment in this institution (7). For over six centuries, the Spital Dels Folls, Orats, e Ignocents of Valencia has been a beacon institution for the treatment of mental illness.
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