Salpêtrière

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Salpêtrière (1600s -)

Location: Paris, France

Salpêtrière

Salpêtrière was founded in the seventeenth century as a hospice for elderly, infirm and insane women. A criminal wing was later added. The buildings were located near the banks of the Seine, on the Boulevard de l’Hôpital.

The scale of Salpêtrière was immense; in the 1870s it provided beds for 5300 women, 1500 of these for psychiatric patients. Originally inhabitants were not segregated regarding the reason for their admission. Conditions in the institution were for many years cramped and unhygienic. Rooms in the lower sections of the building were affected by being level with sewers and the rising waters of the Seine. Rats also posed a problem in these rooms.

In the late eighteenth century a separate psychiatric division was created. Philippe Pinel, chief physician at Salpêtrière from 1795 to 1826, introduced reforms, including increased use of treatments for psychiatric patients and the minimal use of restraint.

Today the original Salpêtrière building is part of the general hospital Pitie-Salpêtrière.