This astonishing "abandonment tower" of Gaillac

Babies who have gone wrong in life...

In some circles, having a child out of wedlock was simply unthinkable and a source of family stigma. In other circles, having a child when one could not even feed oneself was just as unthinkable. We're talking about times, of course, when there was no contraception, no abortion....

All that was left then was to abandon anywhere, or infanticide.

 

The "abandonment tower"

These dramas finally gave rise to the appearance of the "abandonment tower".

This is simply a box, often in the form of a revolving cylinder, allowing a mother to drop her baby in anonymously, without even having to meet someone to hand him over.

This kind of practice was common in the Middle Ages and until the 19th century in Europe and beyond, for example in Japan.

In France, they were usually inserted into the wall of a hospital or hospice. Once the baby had been dropped off by its mother on the street side, and the door closed, all that was left for her to do was to wave the bell and run away. Alerted, the staff on the other side only had to turn the device to retrieve the baby. This was practiced until the 1940s.

It was Saint-Vincent-de-Paul who had the first abandonment tower installed in Paris in 1638. Much later, these abandonment towers were legalized by an imperial decree in 1811 against street abandonment, and there were as many as 250 of them in France. They were closed in 1863 and replaced by an "admission office", then abolished in 1904.

Finally, in 1941, "under X" childbirth was instituted.

Unfortunately, these mechanisms have been very useful.

An example: the pivoting abandonment tower of the Provins hospital was in operation from 1854 to 1859, and during this period, almost five babies a week were delivered there. If it has become very unusual to be able to observe one of them, and to imagine the scenes that took place there, it was unfortunately not at all the case at the time.

Since the 2000s, these "abandonment towers" have reappeared all over the world, particularly in South Africa, Germany, Austria, Belgium, India, Italy, etc...

 

Today, in Gaillac...

Today, these mechanisms have gradually been removed and dismantled. At least two remain, one in Gaillac, in the Tarn, and the other in Rouen in the Seine-Maritime, in the wall of what has now become the Charles Nicolle Hospital.

"Following an imperial decree against abandonment in the street, the Saint André de Gaillac hospital officially became a trustee hospice in 1812, one of the four in the department. The tour itself was set up in 1832. Children were deposited, often with a trousseau and sometimes a sign of recognition, such as a note or playing card.

The registers mention each element and some are still attached to them, like ribbons. At the sound of a bell, Sister Tourière would retrieve the child, keep him in hospital for two days and then put him in a nursery. The sordid names they were given bear witness to the little attention they received and the majority died before the age of 5".

 

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

(free version)

 


To go further....

Histoire des enfants abandonnés depuis l'Antiquité jusqu'à nos jours

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BnF collection ebooks "Dans l'antiquité, la question se posait d'une manière différente. La société païenne ne donnait de soins aux enfants qu'en vue de l'utilité dont ils pouvaient être soit à la famille, soit à l'Etat ; elle attribuait au père le droit de sacrifier son enfant, de le tuer ou de l'exposer. Souvent l'Etat l'obligeait à le supprimer, quand on jugeait que l'enfant était un être inutile ou une charge incommode."
Au bon cœur des inconnus les enfants abandonnés: De l'Antiquité à la Renaissance

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L'idée d'une étude sur les enfants abandonnés au Moyen Age a quelque chose, à première vue, de marginal et de périphérique. De paradoxal, même, puisque, apparemment, la diffusion du christianisme aurait dû mettre fin à l'"exposition" des enfants, qui fait partie de la litanie classique des dépravations romaines. Pourtant, à suivre John Boswell dans son enquête presque policière, dans sa descente aux enfers d'une société de pauvreté, on s'aperçoit que ce thème, si présent dans l'imaginaire occidental, de Moïse à Tom Jones et Figaro, repose sur une réalité fondamentale aux sociétés prémodernes. Par sa massivité, d'abord, puisque, au XVIIIe siècle encore, les rares données sûres indiquent, à Paris comme à Florence ou Toulouse, jusqu'à trente pour cent d'abandons connus par rapport aux seules naissances enregistrées. Par l'ampleur aussi des problèmes sur lesquels débouche le phénomène ; les arcanes de la vie familiale et les mille raisons d'abandonner ses enfants, depuis celles qu'inspire le respect du lignage à celles qu'imposent la misère ou le lucre ; les tâtonnements de la démographie sans statistiques ; l'immensité des sources littéraires et théologiques et, pour finir ― autre surprise de cette plongée pionnière ―, l'effet pervers du développement des institutions de charité chrétiennes, hospices et Enfants trouvés.
Sans famille: L'histoire se situe au xixe siècle. Un enfant abandonné, Rémi, est vendu par ses parents adoptifs à un saltimbanque nommé Vitalis. ... de découvrir le secret de ses origines...

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Also to be seen in the department

Le berceau de Marianne, emblème de la République

placePuylaurens - Tarn 
label People from here  
Place des Arcades

Castelnau-de-Montmiral, citadelle médiévale imprenable

placeCastelnau-de-Montmiral – Tarn 
label cities and villages  
Ari Vatanen au volant

Jean Philippe Dayraut, créateur de voitures rétro-électriques

placeAlbi – Tarn 
label People from here  
La château de Grandval,

The castle of Grandval, in the middle of the water

placeTeillet – Tarn 
label Monuments  

Discover the regions of the Great South