Hôpital de la Pitié / Hospice des Orphelins, Paris, Seine, France

The Hôpital de la Pitié was founded in 1612 for the reception of paupers. It occupied premises at at 1 Rue Copeau (now Rue Lacépède) and was so called because its chapel was dedicated to Notre Dame de la Pitié. In 1657, it became an annexe of the General Hospital of Salpêtrière and became an asylum for orphans and also for the children of beggars.

Hôpital de la Pitié, Rue Copeau, Paris. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1809, the children were transferred to new premises at 124 Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, which became known as the Hospice des Orphelins. The Rue Copeau building then became an annexe of the Hotel Dieu Hospital.

Hospice des Orphelins, Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, Paris, c.1818. © Peter Higginbotham

In the 1820s, the Hospice des Orphelins housed up to 750 inmates of both sexes, aged from 2 to 12 years. They were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. At an early age, the boys were sent to learn rural occupations or were apprenticed to some trade, though still remaining under the protection of the institution until they were of age. The girls were taught, sewing, embroidery and other domestic skills.

In 1838, a further move took the institution to 74 Rue d'Enfer where it was housed in part of the premises already used by the Hospice des Enfants-Trouvés. Children were transferred from that department into the Hospice des Orphelins at the age of two. It also received children whose parents were dead, those whose parents certified they were unable to support them, and the children of poor persons having to enter hospital for treatment. Both sections of the Rue d'Enfer site were run by the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul. The children were all educated in reading, writing and arithmetic, and were placed out in trades at the age of 21.

From 1859 to 1906, foundlings, abandoned and orphaned children were officially known as 'enfants assistés', while a separate category of 'enfants moralement abandonnés' (morally abandoned children) was created in 1881 — children aged from 12 to 16 whose parents could not provide education, from a material or moral point of view; from 1907, these different categories all became 'pupilles de l'assistance' (wards of assistance), then 'de l'État') of the state.

The Rue d'Enfer site (now Avenue Denfert-Rochereau Avenue) is now occupied by the Saint Vincent de Paul Hospital. In 1911, the Pitié moved from the Rue Copeau to a site adjacent to the Salp&eacirc;trière Hospital, with which it merged in 1964.

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Archives de Paris, 18 Boulevard Sérurier, 75019, Paris. Has extensive records for the city's foundling, abandoned and orphan children from 1639 onwards — there is a useful introductory page.

Bibliography

  • None identified at present.
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