The Tower of Fools

There are many places on the planet that can cause panic and fear in a normal person. This place is called the Tower of Fools in Vienna, which served as a shelter for madmen who were kept in inhuman conditions.

Building features

The Tower of Fools is Europe’s oldest hospital for the mentally ill. The building was erected in 1784 by order of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II. On the site of the home for the disabled in Alsergrund, a modern hospital for those times was built with three departments: a maternity hospital, a hospital, a mental hospital.

Soon the emperor turned it into a house of sorrow , a psychiatric clinic, which he financed from his own funds.

Exterior and interior views of the tower

The Tower of Fools is a gloomy five-story building in the shape of a squat cylinder, located in the complex of the University of Vienna. The hospital has 140 single wards, each floor has a rounded corridor, on either side of which there are 28 cramped rooms similar to a cell.

The only narrow window of the chamber looks into the courtyard. The structure is crowned with a wooden octagon. The wards did not have doors, so the staff could easily monitor the patients.

Features of the maintenance of patients

During the life of Joseph II, patients were treated humanely. They calmly wandered along the corridors of the hospital, because they did not try to heal them. Psychiatry did not develop. The violent were chained to the wall, and they could not move. There was no running water in the building: it was believed that water was harmful to the health of patients.

After the death of the emperor, the hospital turned into a place of confinement for the unfortunate. Diseases – paranoia, depression, mania, delirium tremens – that doctors knew how to diagnose, were treated with bloodletting, emetics, sticks and chains.

Strong doors and bars on the windows did not allow leaving the room. Straightjackets and bed belts soothed restless clients. A wall appeared around the tower, reliably fencing off the outside world.

The institution resembled a prison . The first lightning conductor in Austria was installed on the building in order to treat hospital clients with the help of lightning discharges. This method did not bring relief to the mentally ill.

Excursion into the past

In 1869, the institution was closed, it was empty for 50 years. In 1920, it housed a nurses’ dormitory, later – a hospital warehouse, workshops, a dispensary for doctors. Since 1971, the Tower of Fools has been officially called the “Federal Pathological Museum”, part of the Museum of Natural History .

Museum exhibits

There are 52 thousand exhibits in the museum building, of which 4 thousand cause horror and disgust among visitors. The collection was replenished generously during epidemics. What is included in the exhibits?

  • Human malformations both in wax dummies and in alcohol-based form.
  • Babies with developmental deformities.
  • Organs of people affected by terrible diseases.
  • Helminths.
  • Dental and gynecological chairs.
  • Surgical instruments from different eras.
  • Reconstructed morgue room.
  • Workplace of a pathologist.
  • Dissected skulls.
  • Mummified heads.
  • Human organs affected by sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Embryos with congenital mutations.

The Vienna Museum is not so much a scary place as an instructive and warning one. But only for people with strong nerves.