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THE ROYAL MEDICAL ACADEMY OF CATALONIA
by Dolors Pérez Vives

(...) The history of the Royal Medical Academy of Catalonia dates back to the year 1760, when Tarragona-born surgeon Pere Virgili founded the second Spanish Royal College of Surgeons in Barcelona - the first one had been established in Cadiz in 1748 - with a view to raising the standard of studies in the schools where surgeons were trained and which were at that time separate from medical schools. In 1770, that institution was newly established under the name of Practical Medical Academy and was finally styled "Royal" again in 1785, as it was placed under the patronage of King Charles III. During the following century, surgical, medical and pharmaceutical studies were first united in 1843 in a Faculty of Practical Sciences that would again be rechristened only two years later as the Faculty of Medicine, an institution from which pharmacists were excluded. This Faculty of Medicine then went through a period of splendour and development, eventually gathering as many as 800 students in its lecture halls as its renown kept spreading in parallel with that of a teaching body that included many eminent professionals, among which the name of Santiago Ramón i Cajal stands out. In 1906, the Faculty of Medicine was located on carrer de Casanovas, the same site on which the "Hospital Clínic" stands nowadays. The Medical Academy, which had ceased to be an educational centre, was transferred to carrer Banys Nous until the year 1929 when it was moved anew to the former premises of the old College of Surgeons. It was to Pi Sunyer - a famed university lecturer and a Republican member of Parliament who was then the president of the Medical Academy - that king Alfonso XIII handed back the keys to that historical building.

The building that housed the Medical Academy was constructed within the premises on which Barcelo-na's main medical care centre had been located for more than five hundred years, namely since the construction of the Santa Creu Hospital in 1401, which served to regroup in one large nucleus the smaller medical care facilities that had, until then, been scattered in different hospitals across the city. The Baroque building containing the Convalescent Home was erected in the seventeenth century, and the building that would eventually house the College of Surgeons was completed in 1764. The latter is a construction in the neoclassical style, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings of that type in Barcelona, even though it would require important restoration works in order to recover its former state and magnificence. Among its different halls and rooms, the most interesting one is undoubtedly the dissecting room which has been carefully preserved, remaining unaltered since 1929, with its large overhead light under which stands an old dissecting table, displayed as a museum piece. Today, the historical Hospital houses the Institute of Catalan Studies and the Library of Catalonia, while the Medical Academy of Catalonia is currently located in the building previously occupied by the College of Surgeons.(...)

Having steadily accumulated information and documents over its more than two hundred fifty years of existence, the Medical Academy now boasts a large library that contains more than one thousand books published prior to the nineteenth century. This is the most important collection of texts relating to the history of medicine and medical care in Catalonia, a veritable treasure for scholars and researchers.