The Merciful Brothers’ Order called Bonifraters was founded by a Portuguese Saint, John of God, who lived in the 16th century and is considered the pioneer of contemporary hospitalizing.
His way of life and charisma brought the followers of his mission of supporting other people and sponsors who donated money for implementation of a very innovative, as for that time, project of hospital construction. The hospital of John of God followed the rules of hygiene, providing every sick person with a separate bed, which was rare in the 16th century.
The Merciful Brothers were brought to Cieszyn by a sponsor, Cieszyn’s Marshal, Adam Borek, who gave the Bonifraters his land in 1694. The monks started their operations with seven beds only. Initially, the hospital operated as a contemporary founding hospital or a night refuge, where sick and poor persons could find shelter. The situation was completely different in 1724, when – as provided by the church chronicles – surgical treatment was rendered in the hospital.
The type of treatment and operations performed in Cieszyn’s hospital depended on the medical knowledge of the Merciful Brothers. However, it should be noted that since Order founding till today, the Merciful Brothers have been dealing with phytotherapy, which is herbal treatment, promoting healthy lifestyle, diet enriched with various herbal additives, etc.
Anyone could be a patient of the Merciful Brother’s hospital: regardless of the social status, nationality or religion. The archives confirm that patients treated by the Bonifraters included the homeless, farmers, merchants, clerks, monks and even gentry of Polish, Czech, Russian, French and Italian origin. The sick were confessors of Catholicism, Greek Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Protestantism and Judaism.
Currently, the Bonifraters of Cieszyn run the Nursing Home with 116 beds. They have been recording, and undoubtedly will record, their experiences and stories in the monastery chronicles kept in the Archive and Library of the Monastery of Merciful Brothers’ Order.