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In the early years the activity consisted primarily in providing dowries to indigent girls, helping people in nee and burying the poor, following the example of Saint Tobias who, with charitable spirit, shared his bread with the poor and helped to bury the dead.
Later, during the great pestilence that troubled Florence from the 14th century onwards, the Company worked assiduously carrying sick people to the town hospitals. The brotherhood distinguished itself so much in this task that the March 31, 1329, a provision of the township of Florence conferred on the Misericordia the official rank of public institution with the faculty of electing its own ‚Äúcaptains‚ÄĚ.
The show their gratefulness, some generous Florentines appropriated financial donations and property bequests to the Misericordia, to help its increasing financial needs.
In 1363, the ‚ÄúCaptaina‚ÄĚ Piero di Gherardo Borsi gathered a small group of auxiliaries, whose task was to carry sick people to the hospitals, using special carrying-basket called ‚Äúzane‚ÄĚ.
They received payment for every single service. This initiative, started during a terrible plague epidemic that lasted six months and took the life of many Brothers, gave rise to the legend (caused) of the facchini (porters), believed to have been the founders of Misericordia.
In 1425, following a decree from the Floerntine Repubblic, the Company of Saint Mary of the Misericordia and the Company of the Bigallo were united. This fusion was rather unsuccessful, as it put an end to the spontaneous assistance work, so in 1475 the Republic annulled the measure. Immediately afterwards a new Company was formed , independent and self-sufficient, and in the year 1490 it gave itself new statutes. In the fifteenth century the Company nominated St. Sebastian as second Patron Saint together Saint Tobias.
Since the middle of the fourteenth century the seat of the Misericordia has been in the Piazza del Duomo. From the original seat in the building where one can steel see the small Gothic loggetta erroneously called ‚ÄúLoggetta del Bigallo‚ÄĚ, it was transferred to the church of Saint Christopher, later deconsecrated, sited in the place where today we find a deposit for the ambulances.
In 1576 the Misericordia fixed its residence in the present building, a donation from the grand Duke Francesco I de‚ÄôMedici, as a token of esteem for the Brotherhood‚Äôs merits. The building was later enlarged and endowed with a decorous Oratory.
The Misericordia also has its own cemetery where its members are buried.
The various form of assistance and charitable works carried out by the Brotherhood in obedience to its statutes are all free of charge. They can be summed up as follows:
Ambulance transportation of invalid from home to hospital and back.
Sanitary transportation to other destinations in Italy or abroad (24 hours a day).
First aid service by ambulance with doctor on board (24 hours a day).
Sanitary and health assistance (change of bend lines, underwear, etc) to sick people at their homes.
Telephone service for old people living alone in precarious health conditions.
Medical examinations and assistance at the Misericordia dispensary.
Assistance with first-aid equipment in case of natural or artificial calamities.
Financial help to people in need of special equipment (crutches, wheelchairs, hospital beds, etc).
Rest home for the elderly (Il Bobolino).
Visiting nursing for old people, at home and in the rest home.
Sport and cultural activities.
Sanitary training courses for all its members.
Transportation to mortuary of people who died outside their homes.
Funeral transportation from home to the Misericordia graveyard for brothers who have this right.
Burial of brothers in the Cemetery of Soffiano.
AMG Associazione Minorati Gravi.