This large complex of buildings, extending 334 meters in length and covering an area of 27,000 square meters, was started at the end of the 17th century as an initiative of Monsignor Odescalchi, nephew of Pope Innocent XII. With a papal bull, all the charitable institutions of the city were united into one organization.
The organization thereby took over all the charities' enormous real estate holdings, and, in turn, maintained them financially. The same Papal Bull concentrated all social services into one large building on Ripa Grande.
, therefore, became the first multi-functional structure in Europe: it consolidated social welfare services for the under-privileged in a single location at the very outskirts of Papal Rome. Over time, it also came to provide detention services, as well as residential and educational services.
Carlo Fontana, who was in the process of restructuring the port area, was given the task of building a juvenile detention center to be attached to the already existing hospice.
By the end of the 19th century, the building was used almost primarily as a prison. It was, consequently, where the many opponents of Pope Pius IX were imprisoned. Even as recently as 1972, it was used as a juvenile detention center.
Today, it is the headquarters of the Ministero dei Beni Culturali, the government ministry that looks after important works of art and historic buildings. The Central Institute for Restoration is also located here.