Located on the Rue de la Charité, it has served many purposes throughout its long history. From an orphanage to a prison and even as a hospital, this iconic structure has seen much over the years.
Built in 1448 by King René I of Anjou, The Old Charity was initially used as an orphanage for abandoned children from the city of Marseille. It provided these children with food, shelter, and education until they were old enough to fend for themselves or find employment elsewhere. During this time period, The Old Charity also housed some of France’s most famous writers, such as Honoré d’Urfé, who wrote his novel L’Astrée while living there in 1607-1608.
In 1748, The Old Charity underwent extensive renovations which transformed it into a prison known as La Maison Centrale des Prisons de Marseille (Central House of Prisons). This new role saw criminals from all walks of life being held within its walls, including those guilty of murder and robbery, amongst other crimes. In 1801 however, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the closure of all prisons within France due to overcrowding, so The Old Charity once again changed hands and became a hospital instead – one that still stands today.
Today, visitors can explore what remains of this historic building, which includes parts dating back to its original construction along with more modern additions added during later renovations.