In Cadillac, “Fontainebleau de la Gironde” was also the first prison for women in France.

In Cadillac, “Fontainebleau de la Gironde” was also the first prison for women in France.

In the Gironde, the castle of Cadillac was the first women’s prison in France

Access slideshow (10)

NOTICE – It was built at the beginning of the 17th centurye century for the glory of the Gascon who became a peer of France under the reign of Henry III, the castle of Cadillac-sur-Garonne also experienced dark hours for being the first French prison § comfortable for women.

Le Figaro Bordeaux

The ruler of Pernon had chosen himself as his motto “The enemy burns hotter” (in French: it is in trouble that he shines the most). Four centuries after the construction of his great ceremonial castle at Cadillac-sur-Garonne, in the Gironde, History proves him right. Famous for being the first women’s prison in France in the 19th centurye century, which was followed by reforms for young girls, the ducal castle is located in a medieval village. At the same time, his hospice specializes in mental health care for men. A call that is now underway inside the hospital that welcomes the most dangerous patients in France.

In the playgrounds of Gironde schools, a threat “you’d have your place in a Cadillac” it’s still spinning. The past of the commune is “scary”not yet, “We can consider that the prison saved the castle by preventing it from being destroyed”, estimates Olivier du Payrat, curator of this heritage for the center of national monuments. Fate, a thousand miles from the original architecture of the castle, commanded by a cadet from Gascony, who had reached the peerage of France through its glory under Henry III, and who hoped to see his lineage continue there e, disappear in two places. generations.


“After the Revolution, the Government found itself in possession of many national assets that it did not know what to do with. They become schools, government services or are converted into prisons., explains Olivier du Payrat. The ducal castle of Cadillac is no exception to the rule. In 1818, thirty years after the abolition of torture, these huts housed the first major house of strength and reform intended for women in France. For 80 years, 10,000 women will serve their sentences there “wandering”, “vols”, “murder”. In some years – where their number can reach 500 – up to 40% of prisoners are imprisoned for the murder of their babies, killed at birth, according to the prison register. Housed in large dormitories, these prisoners are forced to work spinning, weaving and sewing in inhospitable conditions. Most of them are considered innocent. In 1866, the corporate death rate reached 8.48%, nearly twice the national average that year.

Fed with bread and water, “the best and most powerful diet known to us”, according to the Interior in 1841, the prisoners are supervised by twelve nuns from the congregation of the Daughter of Wisdom, “they were put in their boxes and as prisoners as prisoners themselves”. They keep them prisoners “fierce hospitality”softened by Father Jean-Joseph Lataste (1832-1869), son of Cadillac who called them. “my dear sisters” by denouncing the cruelty of their imprisonment. Overturning this time, this statement is driven by genuine desire. It led her to found the Dominican community of Bethany Sisters, whose vocation is to welcome these women who no longer have a place in society when they leave prison.

“Bad Girls”

When the detention center was closed due to a reduction in the number of inmates, the Cadillac Palace continued its fate as a prison. “preservation” for young girls from 1891. Considered as “dévoyées” and “strong” to the characters “rebels and deceivers”, The poor people kept in this institution are locked in small cells of five square meters. Their living conditions were so bad that in 1928 some of them caused a fire that would destroy the legacy of the Duke of Épernon beyond the Revolution. In 1951, six years after it became a “supervised public educational institution” that mixed juvenile prisoners with national wards, the suicide of two of them led to its closure.

Abandoned until the 2000s, the ducal castle was then the subject of many works to be open to tourists. In addition to presenting the story of its history, it now hosts the largest collection of tapestries from the national monuments of France with 20,000 to 25,000 visitors a year. Knowing that “Château de Cadillac will not be to Bordeaux like Château de Versailles to Paris”its management now aims to make it a “small Fontainebleau of the Gironde”.