Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Site: A Vision for the Virtual

In 1123, a courtier of King Henry I named Rahere fell ill whilst on religious pilgrimage in Rome. During his fever, Rahere had a vision of St Bartholomew, the patron of tanners and believed to hold healing powers, who instructed him that in the event that he recovered, he should build a hospital.

This virtual encounter led to the founding of the churches of St Bartholomew-the-Great and St Bartholomew-the-Less, as well as St Bartholomew Hospital. The former now remains the oldest church in the London, the latter the oldest church in England, both having existed on the same site for almost 900 years, surviving both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz.

By 1872, St Bartholomew’s contained 676 beds. About 6,000 in-patients were admitted every year, besides 101,000 out-patients. While the hospital now operates with only half these beds, and its Accident & Emergency facility was closed in 1995, it remains one of the most important centres of medical research in Europe, with a new £200m Cancer Research Centre having opened in 2009.