Spanish Military Hospital Museum

Our Spanish Military Hospital Museum guided tour started with a trip to the morgue.  Did you know a couple of hundred years ago when someone was dying, the hospital would ring a bell to summon family on the alert at home?  That’s where the saying, “for whom the bell tolls” comes from!  True story!  I learned a lot at this St. Augustine Museum… like this stop isn’t for people with weak stomachs!

Back to the morgue- that’s it below- it wasn’t just for dead people.  No, it wasn’t a cold storage place but a quiet, private room for people to visit with their beloved soldier during his last moments.  But the Spanish Military Hospital didn’t have to carry many of their patients into this room!  Because of meticulous attention to cleanliness and careful practice of medicine, their mortality rate was as good as ours!

I was surprised and impressed that this fully guided tour utilized three guides who were very knowledgeable in their area.  The tour was going great until we went into the surgical ward.  Here our doctor demonstrated surgical procedures with the tools used in the 1700s- I found it fascinating!  Timothy (7) asked to go out into the garden instead of listening to the procedures and Daddy was all too happy to take him!  Amputating arms WHACK!!, draining cranial abscesses with a hand drill and using a “tooth key” to pull bad teeth was a little much for our boy with a weak stomach.  {Don’t worry, he made it out “in time” & was fine by the time we went into the next room to hear about herbology!}

The tour isn’t all blood and guts.  I’m fascinated by Spanish doctors’ & orderlies’ cleanliness standards.  They had special protocol for everything from frequency of bathing to patient spacing.  The death rate spiked when Brits took over in the 1760’s, disregarding these protocols as wasteful and superflous.  Without the attention to sanitation that the Spaniards considered common practice, disease spread and mortality dropped.

We were introduced to the herbal roots of modern medicine in the final segment of our tour.  Although the King of Spain sent over sanctioned medicine, supply ships were often intercepted by pirates (learn more about this at the St. Augustine Pirate Museum) so the local doctor grew remedies in his garden- many which we’re still using today in a more refined form.

It was a fascinating tour great for the history buff… but not great for the faint of heart or weak stomached.  I think the guides will tone it down if you get queasy, but honestly it’d be hard to make the procedures of the 1700’s sound lovely.  It’d be hard to make the procedures we do today sound lovely, for that matter!

My prescription:  Look through brochures around town for a Spanish Military Hospital Museum Coupon… then if you need to go out for part you won’t feel too bad!

Spanish Military Hospital Museum
 3 Aviles Street
Pet Friendly
Tours begin every half hour from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Admission: $9 adults, $7.50 seniors, $4.50 6-12, free under 6 &  50% off for locals

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