Antiguo Hospital de Santa María la Rica

Old Hospital of Santa María la Rica

The Antiguo Hospital de Santa María la Rica (Old Hospital of Santa María la Rica), the oldest charitable institution in Alcalá, is now home to the Department of Culture and one of the city’s most interesting exhibition spaces. Exhibition program at

The Hospital of Santa María la Rica was founded in the late 13th or early 14th century by a wealthy couple, Pascual Pérez and his wife Antona. It provided assistance until the first quarter of the 19th century, when it was replaced by a charity house and a temporary prison. It is located in a small street behind the Magistral Cathedral that bears its name. The hospital never had a building dedicated to it; instead, it was made up of several houses donated by the founders of the institution.

After the death of the Pérez couple in 1312, their possessions and the hospital of Santa María la Rica came under the direction of the Brotherhood of Santa María. This brotherhood represented the elite of Alcalá society, including members of the clergy, the local nobility and the bourgeoisie. The main positions within the brotherhood were: prioste (provost), alcalde (mayor), steward, and a caretaker.

The hospital of Santa María la Rica also had a barber-surgeon -something like a modern nurse-, a scribe and a chaplain who belonged to the church of San Justo, the current Magistral Cathedral. The Municipal Archive preserves the expansion and reform of the original Constitutions of the Brotherhood, dating back to 1391, which established its functioning.

The hospital cared for sick and healthy pilgrims and travelers passing through the city. Healthy travelers could stay only three days if they were men and five days if they were women.

The sick were allowed to stay longer until they were cured, and there were very precise rules for their care. Some of these rules were: the nurse had to wake up at least once a night and leave a wax candle nearby, a lamp had to burn near their sleeping place at night, and of course they had to have confessed and received communion.

The hospital of Santa María la Rica and the confraternity that ran it were wealthy, thanks to the considerable fortune of the Pérez family and the high annual dues paid by the members of the confraternity who wished to join it. They enjoyed an enviable situation until the middle of the 17th century, when a decline began that they were unable to overcome.

In 1740, the confraternity disappeared and the hospital was renamed San Juan de Letrán, barely surviving until the end of the 19th century, when the buildings of the Hospital de Santa María la Rica were used for other purposes. Since then, these buildings have been used for a variety of purposes: as a prison, a Civil Guard barracks, a warehouse, a fire station, and finally as the headquarters of the Municipal Police. In 2000, it was renovated, preserving some original elements such as the façade, a 15th-century Mudejar coffered ceiling, some columns from the old patio, and some Hispano-Flemish paintings that it housed, which are now kept in the City Hall.

After the renovation, the Hospital of Santa María la Rica became an important cultural center and hosts an annual program of exhibitions of great interest.


Address: Calle Santa María la Rica, 3

Schedule: Tuesday to Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm from September 15 to June 14 and from 6 pm to 9 pm from June 15 to September 14. Sundays from 11 am to 2 pm. Mondays closed.

Price: Free admission