Analysis of the former Psychiatric Hospital: opening of the new Asylum

On November 18, 1867, the branch of the Mombello asylum opened its doors. Castiglioni had conceived it as a “health facility” that could accommodate 300 internees who were considered “tranquil”. History, however, contradicted him very soon and after the final closure of Senagra, the asylum of Mombello became a substitute of the old psychiatric hospital of Milan, and the number of internees grew considerably.


The initial extension of the hospital was managed by the provincial head engineer Lazzarini and Castiglioni and was constructed between 1873 and 1878, allowing an increase in the number of beds by 100 units.
Eusebio Gonzales, director of the complex between 1881 and 1902, was enthusiastic about the location of this “colossal mental asylum”, located on one of the “hills that leads to the charming and nearby Brianza – splendid position and healthy air – the pure light – an enchanted horizon in the serene sky”. From the Bovisio – Mombello station there is a wide road that leads to the grand building – the distance can be covered in 20 minutes – just over a kilometre. In front of the imposing building of Villa Crivelli Pusterla, now turned into administrative offices, the first functional pavilions were built (e.g. kitchen, pantry, etc.), which was considered the “centre of the asylum” and marked the “dividing line of the two departments, men’s and women’s wards.” All the new buildings were about 25 meters from each other and communicated with the kitchen through covered paths with roofs made of cast iron, under which ran a rail for transportation of food and medicines. All these were immersed in the countryside and made more charming by the gardens, partial historical memory of the beautiful century-old park.
The ground floor of each pavilion had rooms for meetings and workrooms, as well as dining halls, bathrooms and toilets; upstairs were the dormitories and washrooms, obtained by placing large movable basins around a reservoir equipped with faucets positioned at the centre of the room with pipes that came from large water tanks in the attic. Observation rooms were located in the pavilions for patients with epilepsy. There was also a theatre and the small chapel of the villa was used as a place of worship, which was enlarged and subsequently replaced in the twentieth century, by a new and bigger liturgical edifice.