The origins of the Santo Spirito in Sassia complex date back to A.D. 727 when the Saxon king Ina founded the "Schola Saxonum" (from where the word "Sassia" derives), a refuge centre for pilgrims arriving in Rome to visit the Apostle Peter's tomb. The complex, destroyed by fire and pillage, was rebuilt by Marchionne d'Arezzo in 1198 under the pontificate of Innocent III. This pope entrusted the Order of the Hospital of Santo Spirito, established by Guido di Montpellier, with the creation of a hospital to help the sick, the poor and the "proietti" (abandoned and illegitimate babies).
Its subsequent reconstruction and enlargement are thought to have been carried out by the architect Baccio Pontelli between 1471 and 1478. The work happened on the initiative of Pope Sixtus IV, who was named "the great builder" due to the countless works he commissioned, such as the Corsia Sistina (Sistine Ward) adorned with a cycle of frescoes commemorating the history of the former hospital, its rebuilding and the biography of this famous Franciscan pope.
The majestic, octagonal Tiburio (lantern) divides the Corsia Sistina (120 metres long) into two large areas. In its centre, you can admire an altar attributed to Palladio, with a painting by Carlo Maratta (seventeenth century).
The Palazzo del Commendatore, sixteenth century extension of the hospital structure of Santo Spirito in Saxia, was created during the pontificate of Pio V (1566-1572) and is due to Monsignor Bernardino Cirillo, built by Giovanni Lippi alias Nanni di Baccio Bigio.
In the second half of the nineteenth century the Sistine Ward's two rooms were named Sala Lancisi and Sala Baglivi after the two renowned doctors who worked in the hospital.
Just past the entrance you can admire a wonderful marble portal called "Portale del Paradiso" (the gate of heaven), attributed to Andrea Bregno ( 1416 - 1501).