Museo Franz Mayer
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History of the building

The former San Juan de Dios Hospital

The former San Juan de Dios Hospital is a historic monument that now houses the Franz Mayer Museum. Its history allows us to learn about the events and uses it has undergone as well as the people who have passed through the building.

Nova Mexico
Arnoldus Montanus [engraver] y John Ogelby [printer]
Etching and watercolor
Ca. 1670
40 x 58 cm.

Hospital for the Destitute

During the Spanish colonization of Mexico, Mexico City housed a vast and diverse population and in which only the higher social classes lived in comfort and luxury and enjoyed quality services. In 1582, Pedro López – a renowned Spanish doctor who lived in the city – decided to found a house and hospital to take care of orphans and those people who were not admitted to Spanish hospitals that existed at that time. The place was known as the Hospital of the Destitute. It was founded on the edge of the city, in an area known then as Santa María Cuepopan, an old neighborhood of potters that dated back to the time of the Mexica, or ancient Mexicans.

Screen from the Conquest Showing the Very Noble City of Mexico (detail)
Author unknown
Oil on cloth, wood and metal
New Spain
Late 17th Century
213 x 563 cm. 

San Juan de Dios Convent and Hospital

The Hospital of the Destitute served as such until 1604, when the brothers of the San Juan de Dios hospital order took it over, continuing with the work of care and assistance that had distinguished it. During the era of the Johannine friars, in a time of economic bonanza, a new church was added to the hospital and it was completely remodeled, although the church was soon consumed by fire. In 1820 the monks were expelled from the hospital, after they had run it for more than 200 years.

Ex-voto dedicated to Our Lady of the Remedies and Saint Atocha (detail)
Author unknown
Oil on cloth
Mexico, 1844
24 x 36 cm. 

From San Juan de Dios to the Women’s Hospital

The new era brought new fortunes for the hospital as well as new inhabitants, who modified the uses and traditions that had characterized it until then. During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, the building functioned as a military barracks, a girls’ school, a nunnery, the health ministry, an institute for attention to prostitutes and a syphilis hospital. At the same time, the church was used as the headquarters of the Official Gazette and as a Post Office. Toward the end of that period, the building was once again used as a hospital, offering care and treatment to women.

The Franz Mayer Museum after renovation work on the San Juan de Dios Hospital
Author unknown
Print on silver gel
Ca. 1987

A New Era

With the arrival of the modern age the building took on a new role and, during the 1968 Olympic Games, became a host to a handicrafts exhibition, which became a permanent market until damage to the building forced its closure. In 1981 the federal government awarded the building to the Franz Mayer Cultural Trusteeship in order to establish a museum that, after a long and difficult restoration process, opened to the public on July 15, 1986.