The first Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God Hospital at the corner of St. John and St. Mark Streets in Krakow was founded in 1609 by Walerian Montelupi and the townspeople of Krakow. It provided care to the sick and suffering for almost two centuries. It was a well-organized institution and provided high levels of medical services, as it employed highly qualified medical professionals.
While Poland was partitioned, the Brothers Hospitallers Convent became impoverished and had no funds to renovate the ruined buildings. In 1812, due to the efforts of the Bishop of Krakow, Andrzej Gawroński, Frederick Augustus I—the King of Saxony and Duke of Warsaw—issued a decree in which he gave ownership of the abandoned monastery with its garden and the Holy Trinity Church at the present-day Krakowska Street to the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God.
In these difficult times, the Brothers Hospitallers renovated the buildings and began serving the community of Krakow. The monastery and the hospital began to prosper when the region of Galicia was awarded autonomy and Józef Dietl, a physician by profession, became the mayor of the city of Krakow.
Things decidedly improved when Father Laetus Bernatek was elected the prior of the Convent in 1891; he was a Moravian, a pharmacist by profession, and a pragmatic dreamer by nature. Despite the odds, the new prior decided to build a new hospital. The 50th anniversary of the reign of Franz Joseph I of Austria was a perfect occasion to make this dream come true. The Austrian–Czech Province Chapter which convened in March 1897 approved the plan of Laetus Bernatek to build a new hospital in Krakow on Trynitarska Street. The hospital was designed by Teodor Talowski, a renowned architect and professor at the State Higher School of Technology and Economics.
The full cost of the construction was 450,000 crowns; 369,600 crowns were contributed by the people. The cornerstone was laid in 1898, and on October 7, 1906 Cardinal Jan Puzyna inaugurated and consecrated the Hospital.
The Hospital had 100 beds and consisted of an internal department with a tuberculosis subunit, surgical department, department of skin and sexually transmitted diseases, dentistry and ophthalmological outpatient clinics, and a pharmacy. The building was equipped with central heating, 130 incandescent lamps, an air ventilation system, hot and cold water, and specialized medical equipment—it was one of the most modern hospitals in Galicia. The hospital equipment was even awarded a gold medal of excellence in 1907 at the 10th Congress of Polish Physicians and Naturalists.
Poland regained independence in 1918 and the Polish Province of the Brothers Hospitallers was reinstituted in 1922, after which the building was extended. The Hospital was modernized to include state-of-the-art medical equipment, and the best healthcare professionals were employed to introduce new methods of treatment.
The Hospital remained in the hands of the Brothers Hospitallers following the outbreak of World War II and throughout the German occupation. It employed renowned physicians laid off from other hospitals in Krakow which had been taken over by the Germans. Guided by the spirit of brotherhood and patriotism, the Brothers Hospitallers provided shelter and medical care to people being searched for by the Gestapo and those who cooperated with the resistance movement, and provided hiding places for members of underground organizations, risking their own lives.
On January 1, 1949 the Hospital was nationalized by the state authorities and came under the governance of the Municipal Government of Krakow in October 1950. The Brothers Hospitallers were forbidden from entering the Hospital and the passage between the Hospital and the Convent was walled up. The Hospital was named after Edmund Biernacki, a pathologist, neurologist, and philosopher of medicine.
After the victory of the Solidarność [Solidarity] movement and the rebirth of the Republic of Poland, the Brothers Hospitallers initiated efforts to restitute the Hospital. It was finally returned to the Convent under an agreement signed by the Governor of Krakow on January 1, 1997. It was the first non-state hospital in Poland, dedicated to Saint Juan Grande Román, a Spanish Roman Catholic reformer who was sanctified by Pope John Paul in 1996.
The Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God Hospital celebrated its 400-year anniversary in 2009. It continues to pursue its centuries-old mission in line with the requirements of contemporary science and medical standards of care.
THE MISSION OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD HOSPITAL IN KRAKOW