The Infirmary

The construction of this infirmary (pseudonym ‘Holy Nurse’) started in the second half of the 19th century. At that point in time the hygienic conditions were terrible. Many people drank from contaminated water sources and combined with general malnutrition it caused a huge cholera epidemic in Europe. The same year, the link between drinking contaminated water and cholera was first made. Coincidentally, the city’s economy was blooming so immediately several facilities were planned to efficiently fight this disease. They constructed this ultramodern infirmary with great attention to hygiene and high quality health care.

The building was designed by a local architect who created a very modern design for the time. He also integrated a chapel and a monastery. In the late 1990s a major part of the infirmary was demolished to make place for a new hospital building. Now only one wing remains, detoriating heavily caused by leaking roofs and no maintenance whatsoever. The chapel is still intact; it contains a beautiful baroque altar and a beautiful organ, both savaged from another infirmary and dating back to the 17th century!


Exploring this building was a surreal experience. I had discovered the building only by finding some exterior shots on the internet and thinking “well this looks old, could be abandoned”. This day I was exploring alone, and I had put this building on the list to do a quick drive by just to see if it was actually abandoned or not. Then I stepped out of the car and immediately stood in front of a gaping hole leading into the building. This would be easy, but given the fact that it was in the middle of a busy street it provided to be quite a challenge to get inside as unseen as possible. But a few minutes later I was inside, amazed by the impulsiveness of it all. Often when I plan to visit a building I have already seen interior photos, but now I didn’t know what I was going to find. This is real exploration! With every step my eyes widened a bit more, then I found the chapel and my jaw dropped. The first thing I thought to myself was “I’m not going to be able to translate this amazingness to photographs”, and looking back at the photos, I was right. Some buildings have this vibe that flat two dimensional images just can’t convey.

The new hospital is actually built against this old wing, so I had to be really careful not to be seen when passing windows. The most surreal moment was when I was passing a big window and was looking straight through a window of the active hospital, which was about four meters away. What I saw was a woman laying on a hospital bed breastfeeding her newborn child. She was actually facing my direction, if she would’ve looked staight ahead she would’ve seen me standing there, but fortunately she was looking down at her child which prevented an awkward situation. I ducked away and went on with exploring but this image was kind of engraved in my mind for the rest of the day. It was such a stark contrast, this old crumbling building versus the start of a new life.