What did the first hospital look like? Who was Basil the Great? From a purely physical point of view, he was a weak man, burdened with many ailments, which were the cause of his early death at age 49. But this man, transformed by Jesus Christ, left behind a legacy of great social and spiritual significance: The Basileiad - Hospital - curing body and soul.
"The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform - are so many injustices that you commit.”
St. Basil the Great
In the middle of the fourth century, famine broke out. Saint Basil, then a priest, immediately created free public canteens for those suffering from hunger. To achieve this, he had to fight, prove, hunt for, and even scream at the rich, to convince them to open their food supplies and share with the hungry. It was then, during the terrible winter of 367 that Father Basil understood he needed to create his own organization—an institution that would serve the suffering. This strong man could patiently bare his infirmities, but he could not bare to see the suffering of others.
Becoming the Archbishop of Caesarea, Basil the Great continued the work he had begun to help the suffering. But here too, there was the resistance of heretics, ill-wishers, and the envious. The Emperor himself was against his idea. It seemed like a dead end, not to mention that he had his own illnesses. But in the soul of this Holy Hierarch burned the fire of the Holy Spirit. His enemies wanted to extinguish this flame, not knowing that it was impossible to extinguish the Spirit.
In 372AD, the famous complex was finally built, and later it was called “The Basileiad”.
The Holy Hierarch Basil persuaded the rich to invest in this undertaking, and convinced the poor to participate in the realization of his idea. In the center of the hospital complex there was a magnificent church, and around it there were structures, guest houses/hotels, schools, orphanages, homes for the poor, and the hospital itself. Such a thing had not existed anywhere else. Saint Basil personally supervised the work, gave advice to the builders, and worked himself. When the construction of this magnificent city was completed—where the main focus was love for humanity—Basil the Great took over the leadership of one of the departments of the hospital.
Few people know that this Saint had seven diplomas of education—one of them being a diploma of medical education. Therefore, he decided to use one of his worldly professions in life. He chose the most difficult thing—the quarantine department for the lepers. These unfortunate people were rejected by all, they were shunned, they lived in terrible agony; it was essentially like a very slow death.
Basil the Great took their care upon himself. He himself bandaged and washed these patients, and not only that, he directly spent time with them, embraced them, seeing in everyone the Image of God.
It’s unbelievable that a Bishop, a doctor, without a mask or gloves, without antiseptic means, cares for leprous and infectious patients, and washes out their wounds. When Basil the Great died, all of Caesarea wept for him. During the funeral of the Holy Hierarch, there were so many people that many in the crowd fell in shock.
Gregory, a friend of Basil the Great said these words after the funeral, concerning the Basileiad Hospital:
Come out, O Brothers, from your city, and behold this new city, where piety reigns, where the money of the rich citizens, at the request of Basil, is turned over to where it will not be stolen by anyone, and where time has no power of it. Here, they look at diseases philosophically, here, unhappiness turns to happiness. If we compare the hospital of Saint Basil the Great with the richest cities, such as Thebes of Boeotia, Babylon, the Pyramids of Egypt and ancient temples, we see that nothing was left of all their former greatness. Even the very people themselves are no more. But in the Basileiad hospital, we see people whom everyone rejected and hated because of their illness.
And Basil managed to convince us that if we consider ourselves humans, we can not neglect our own kind, for with our heartlessness and wickedness, we offend Christ Himself, who is the head of all.