The Madhouse Tower

The Narrenturm is a rather special museum to visit in Vienna. Special in the best sense of the word. The building as such was one of the first psychiatric hospitals and very advanced for the late 18th century. Advanced meaning that there were no windows (for the fresh air) and that the main treatment was to wrap patients in wet towels…

This rather shabby looking tower is full of knowledge, history, facts and artefacts. I don’t think to have ever seen a stuffed human being. Well, in the madhouse tower, you can see one. Along with all other kinds of:

  • Human and animal dry preparations of bones and other body parts with pathological changes – it’s frightening to see what the simply lack of Vitamin D does to our skeleton
  • Human and animal cadaveric parts with pathological changes, preserved in formaldehyde – lungs filled with coal dust compared to which a smoker’s lung looks healthy for instance.
  • Moulages, i.e. castings of pathological body parts in wax or paraffin – those were taken as long as the wound or infection was fresh so that the students could learn almost as if they were there. For those seeking treatment in the AKH (general hospital) that meant that they would have to endure a longer pain even in case of scalds…

Especially these castings are not always beautiful to see; I’m glad we arrived just on time to join a guided tour which made the museum a lot more accessible and insightful going beyond the ‘freak show’ it otherwise risks to be. For those interested in seeing something totally different from the general museums of art, history, etc. it’s a worth-while address!

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2 responses to “The Madhouse Tower

  1. Sounds fascinating. It’s on my list for our next trip to Vienna.

    • 🙂 I see we have a similar taste. Maybe give them a call and see if they have a guided tour in English. It’s definitely worth it. Viel Spass!!

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