Spanish Military Hospital
St. Augustine, Florida, USA
- The hospital: Rebuilt after a fire on the foundations of the original facility, the Royal Hospital of Our Lady of Guadalupe is now owned by the University of Florida.
- Lend a hand: The surgeon will need a volunteer for a demonstration. In was an era when amputation was the best (and only) alternative, so decide carefully.
- Apothecary: Tour the on-site garden and see how medicinal herbs and plants were used during colonial times in ways that are still important today.
- Scalpel, please: Check out an array of antique and often ghastly surgical instruments and devices used by military physicians on helpless Spanish soldiers.
About this St. Augustine, Florida tour
The people who crossed the Atlantic for the New World could not escape mankind's oldest enemy: bacteria. Malaria, diphtheria, smallpox, scarlet fever, and yellow fever took countless souls as epidemics swept the colonies in waves. Medical practice was largely limited to leeches, guesswork, concoctions that often included arsenic or mercury, and reassuring but nonsensical babble about "bodily humours."
It was a time before anesthesia, before painkillers, before sanitation as basic as hand-washing. A medical textbook of the time advised the use of brandy, warm wine, and dissolved "sugar candy" in the treatment of wounds, and recommended waiting for spring or fall to perform surgery. So it's no surprise that life expectancy topped out at about 40. The nation's revered first president made it to the ripe old age of 67, only to die when doctors treating what may have been the flu had Mount Vernon's overseer drain half the blood in his body.
But in St. Augustine, at the Royal Hospital of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Spanish army physicians and surgeons were on to something. Combining the best available knowledge from Europe and Africa with hard-won experience from the fetid, mosquito-infested swamps around the city, they concocted remedies and treatments that led to unheard of survival rates.
Still, a stay at Our Lady would have been a harrowing nightmare of agonized screams, repulsive food, horrific odors, and, for many, a slow descent into death. If nothing else, this tour will give you a greater appreciation for the capabilities of modern hospitals. Although the food could still use some work.
Generally haunted hospital
Spanish hospital visitors have reported hospital beds banging themselves into their shins, footsteps and screams from empty rooms, and unseen hands tearing at their clothes to scratch the word "help" in Spanish on their skin. It may be no coincidence that workers digging up the original foundation in the early '60s uncovered quantities of bones that suggest a Timucuan Indian burial site.
Please make your way to 3 Aviles Street, St Augustine, Florida 32084.
Advance purchase is highly recommended, as space is limited per tour. Unique gift shop featuring local artists is located in the museum.
To fully participate may require leisurely walking over primarily even surfaces. There may be a limited number of steps and some standing for extended periods of time. Wheelchair friendly. There is one step into the front of the museum.
Cultural, Family Friendly
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated mild. To participate fully, you may be required to walk over primarily even surfaces at a leisurely pace. You may encounter a limited number of steps, cobblestones, or uneven surfaces, and you may have to stand for extended periods of time.
Suitable for all ages. Children under 6 years of age participate free of charge.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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