WPC: A Twist of Fate

There are good people who are dealt a bad hand by fate, and bad people who live long, comfortable, privileged lives. A small twist of fate can save or end a life; random chance is a permanent, powerful player in each of our lives, and in human history as well.~Jeff Greenfield

Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you had been born into a different family?  What if, by a twist of fate, your parents were poor and couldn’t afford to raise you?  Or worse, what if they had died when you were very young?

Come with me on a tour of one of the world’s oldest orphanages opened in 1445.  It is called Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) in Florence.

Bruneschelli’s Portico. Oespedale degli Innocenti, Florence. Shot with a Fuji X-T2

We’ll walk up the front steps of the orphanage under the magnificent loggia designed by Fillipo Brunelleschi– who was also the creator of the iconic dome for the Duomo.  The blue roundels of infants on either side of the arches were created by Andrea della Robbia.

Grated window at the orphanage. From Windows on Italy.

The choices we make within the boundaries of the twists of fate determines who we are~John Perkins

Abandoned babies were slipped through the grated window pictured above.  The quote in the mural is from the Book of Psalms– “Our father and mother have abandoned us, but the Lord has taken us in.” (Psalm XXVI).

Two medals. From the Oespedale degli Innocenti, Florence.

Even when I was in the orphanage, when I was roaming the street trying to find enough to eat, even then I thought of myself as the greatest actor in the world. I had to feel the exuberance that comes from utter confidence in yourself. Without it, you go down to defeat. — Charlie Chaplin, actor, director

Often the babies arrived with a small momento from their birth family–a scrap of cloth, a religious medal.  The hope was that one day the family could reunite by tracking down the matching piece of the medal or the strip of cloth.

Inner Courtyard, Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence.

Over the next century, the number of abandoned babies continued to increase–from 200 to over a thousand a year.  The future of these children depended largely on their gender.  Boys were often apprenticed to artists or members of a guild.  Girls were trained in the domestic arts.

The hospital continued to grow over time with the number of girls surpassing the number of boys.  Sections of the orphanage were added, like the inner courtyard pictured above.

Ultimately, the orphanage closed its doors in the second half of the 20th Century when the Florentine society felt that children were better cared for in foster homes instead of orphanages.