The origins of the buildings belonging to the military hospital, photographed by Adalbert Cserni around 1900, go back to the early eighteenth century, if not to the last decades of the seventeenth century, when the activity of a hospital in Alba Iulia was first mentioned. In its 300-year existence, the hospital carried various names and was closely connected to major events in Alba Iulia throughout this time. The outbreaks of epidemics, the 1848-49 revolution, the First World War and most significantly, the Second World War have strongly influenced its evolution as well as the numbers of its patients.
The military hospital, located north of the Cathedral of the Coronation, and photographed by Adalbert Cserni at the beginning of the twentieth century, is positioned in such a way that most passers-by would not notice it. Hidden by an unimpressive building, with ground-floor only, which at that time was used by the administrative service, the hospital building is hardly visible from the street. As such, whoever passes the entrance gate will find himself in front of a completely unknown, old, but good-looking edifice, the pavilions for patients.
Although medicine has been practiced in Alba Iulia since ancient times, as proven by surgical instruments found in Roman sites, the earliest information indicating the functioning of the military hospital comes from the turn of the seventeenth century. As this information appeared in a guide to the city of Alba Iulia published in 1912, this dating is still uncertain. A more reliable source is the map of Major-Engineer J. C. Weiss, from 1731-36. In this map, on the location of the military hospital, appears an L-shaped building receding from the street line. During the next decades, the edifice was enlarged. Thus, on the new maps, the shape of the building changed into a U-shape. Next to the Kleines Spital (Small Hospital) or Doktor Hause (Doctor’s House), at the turn of the eighteenth century the Neu Spital (New Hospital) or Grosse Spital (Great Hospital) was built.
In 1900, the complex was called K.u.K Truppen Spital but three years later it was renamed Kleines Spital and Grosse Spital. After the organisation of the Great National Assembly in Alba Iulia, on 1 December 1918, as the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated and Transylvania was united with Romania, the military hospital was taken over by Romanian authorities. On 20 December 1918 Spitalul Militar Alba Iulia (Alba Iulia Military Hospital) was established. The institution preserved this name until 1932, when it was renamed Spitalul Militar Medic General Dr. Carol Davila (Gen. Dr Carol Davila Military Hospital). The last change took place in 1945, when the Hospital of Neurology and Neuropsychiatry of Alba Iulia was established.
Throughout its 300-year existence, the hospital of Alba Iulia was closely connected to major events affecting the city. Outbreaks of epidemics, the siege of the fortress by Hungarian revolutionaries in 1849, the First World War and, most significantly, the Second World War all had major impacts on its functioning, but especially on the numbers of its patients. After a “dreadful five-hour bombardment” that the fortress endured on 24 June 1849, as scurvy and tuberculosis afflicted the defenders, the hospital was seriously damaged and the patients were evacuated to the nearby barracks. The hospital was opened only one month later, after a partial reparation of the building.
On 8 September 1944, after Romania renounced the alliance with Germany in the Second World War, the hospital of Alba Iulia suffered a new bombardment. Two of its pavilions were hit, but its functioning was not interrupted. Although far from the battle lines, as Romania participated the battles on the eastern front, here were interned 2400 patients in 1941. By 1944, when military operations were taking place along the line Aiud-Ocna Mureș-Turda, the number of patients reached 6300.
The architecture of this building, with its Baroque roof and unusually massive chimney, as well as other features typical of military edifices constructed during the eighteenth century, render the former military hospital a worthwhile tourist destination for potential visitors. (S. A.)