St Katarina’s hospital was as far as we know the first health care institution in Bergen. It was built at Sandbro during the first part of the 13th century. The hospital burnt during the city fire in 1248. It was rebuilt behind the Cathedral in 1266 and stayed a hospital for leprosy patients, a poor house and a hospital for other gravely sick people until 1771.
The remains of the original St Katarina’s hospital, which was built in stone, is located in Dreggen near Bryggens Museum, where we can see the results of the archaeological excavations during 1971-73.
The hospital was built in connection with the royal chapel St Katarina’s Church. King Håkon Håkonsson built the hospital, and it was early on intended to care for people with leprosy. It was commonplace in European Middle Ages that hospitals took care of people with leprosy. These hospitals were always closely connected with churches.
Both the church and the hospital were ruined by the big fire in 1248. They were rebuilt behind the Cathedral under King Magnus Håkonsson in 1266.
St Katarina’s Hospital was initially intended as a hospital for sick men, although later it was referred to as a leprosy hospital, ‘ospitale leprosorum’. In 1276 it became a hospital for poor women. In this ‘ospitale pauperum’, the hospital for the poor, the women were provided with housing, food and clothes.
From 1500 onward, St Katarina’s hospital was run by The German Office – the Hanseatic merchants. It was now referred to as a poor house for “old and young, wed and unwed, still helpless and frail”. The church and the hospital benefitted from 75 wills from travelling merchants during the period 1339–1527.
St Katarina’s hospital burnt again during the devastating fire in 1702, but was rebuilt three years later. The government was put in charge of the hospital in 1759, but in 1771 it was shut down. Six paupers still lived in the hospital at the time, and they were moved to another poor house; Sailors Poor House. St Katarina’s Hospital was torn down in 1884, after having accomodated both a school and Bergen Temperance Society.