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Granada City - San Juan de Dios - Saint John of God

San Juan de Dios - Saint John of God

by Lawrence Bohme

The story of Saint John of God gives us a vivid glimpse of life in 16th century Spain and, especially, in the recently conquered city. Saint John was born in Portugal as João Cidade and roamed the peninsula and Europe as a soldier of fortune - he went as far as Vienna with the army of Carlos Quinto to fight the Turks - and itinerant book-peddler, until he came to Granada.

Here, he was “re-born” at the hands of one of the time’s many charismatic preachers, who - in a Spain profoundly disenchanted with the Catholic church, whose princes had proven powerless to remedy the sufferings caused by war and disease - often offered the poor their only ray of hope. While listening to the fateful sermon, John “heard” God ordering him to care for the sick, an experience which sent him into a fit so violent that he was locked up with the “locos” in the Hospital Real for several months.

He soon became a familiar figure on the filthy streets of the city, often carrying home dying beggars on his shoulders. With the alms he collected he created his own hospital, which after his death multiplied into the great Order now active throughout the world.