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Bicêtre (1600s -)

Location: 78 rue de Général Leclerc, 94275 Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, Paris, France


In the seventeenth century Bicêtre was established as a hospice for elderly, infirm and insane men. It also included a prison for much of its history. The buildings were located outside Paris' city walls.

Originally the large institution housed everyone together, regardless of the reason for their admission. A separate psychiatric division was later established. In 1840 there was accommodation for around 900 psychiatric patients. This number had reduced to around 300 by 1872, along with a reduction in the total number of inhabitants in Bicêtre.

From 1793 to 1795, Philippe Pinel was chief physician at Bicêtre. During this time Pinel introduced reforms in the treatment of psychiatric patients and famously gave instructions for the removal of chains from patients.

In the mid-nineteenth century, John Conolly reported six foot square 'cells', below ground level at Bicêtre. The rooms were furnished only with narrow planks, covered with straw and attached to the walls. The only source of air and light in these rooms was the door.

Today Bicêtre continues to operate as a hospital.