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At that time, the Vieille-Charité took care of Marseille's poorest ones

General view | Charliemoon / CC-BY-SA
Museum General hospital Vieille Charité in Marseille

A hospital for Marseille's people

The foundation

Our hospital was founded to welcome poor people and beggars from Marseille (in the past they were pretty numerous, wandering in the streets), in 1639.

A canon from Major cathedral, Emmanuel Pachier, decided to raise a big hospital for all the poor from Marseille.

At the same time, measures were taken in order to forbid the begging. What a waste of time, beggars were so numerous! Let’s raise that hospital...

It was raised on the place de l’Observance and they dedicated it to Our-Lady-Mother-of-Charity.

King Louis XIV raised it to a General hospital in 1687, and took it under his wing 2 years later.

A strict rule

Things went quickly: in 1655, they welcomed 300 people. In 1687, double! And in 1760... more than 1 000 poor people.

Our hospital had a pretty strict rule: they only received men, women and children over 7 years old; they had to be from Marseille.

They expelled foreigners without a remorse... If people didn’t respect those conditions, they were locked in a jail for 8 days!

And if they repeated, women and children were whipped and men sent to the galleys, for 3 years!

In order to keep things under control, they knew the ropes: policeman, called chasse-gueux ("hunt-wretched"), dressed in red with Kings’ blazon, paced streets up and down to pick up all the poor... Implacable!

By the way, they often blamed the hospital, for literally shutting in people from Marseille.

Oh, but once they were in the hospital, what did they do? All these people worked and made silk, rope. The young ones went to school.

At the end of the 17th century, captains hired their cabin boys here, among orphans.

Puget’s chapel

The place had to be extended, in 1672, 1687, 1729. Architect from Marseille, Pierre Puget, helped by his brother Jean, was put in charge of the construction of the chapel and its dome, in 1679.

His son François Puget went on with the building site.

Aah, the Baroque chapel is the hospital's masterpiece! Raised between 1678 and 1707, only the choir was raised. The façade dates back to 1863.

Unfortunately, after the French Revolution, buildings were in ruins. And the hospital couldn’t afford all the residents. Buildings were sold and poor people expelled.

In 1905, the place was converted into barracks, then in 1922, they welcomed homeless persons. They were expelled in 1962 because the hospital was too old...

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!