poems of the month

orpheus in soho

a seriously sexy man


measuring my face

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

confession from belgrade

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

the second coming (rebus)

gloss on rilke's ninth duino elegy

wine and roses

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa: a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of
omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

the love of pierre de ronsard






the maxims of michel de montaigne

revolutionary maxims

nice men and
suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper


art, truth and bafflement




the three bears

three albanian tales

a little creation story


lazarus the leper



ancient violence
in the amazon

home sweet home no longer

helen's tower

the ivory palace

schopenhauer for muthafuckas


never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you


londons of the mind &
dealing death to the caspian


a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

a holy dog and a
dog-headed saint

an albanian ikon

being or television

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope


this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

combatting normality

fools for nothingness:
atheists & saints

death of a bestseller

translation and the oulipo

the visit





metamorphotos NEW LINK



tombeau de kurt schwitters

three movements of melting ice




Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland

houses for the dead

ireland and the phallic continuum

irish cross-pillars

irish sweathouses

the sheela-na-gig conundrum

french megaliths

the church of lazarus and the dogs




'western values'

a small town in france



this site only



(Tarn-et-Garonne, Occitania, France)

texte en français



In 1198, the zealous and reforming pope Innocent III decreed the establishment of church-sponsored foundling homes or orphanages designed to receive the unwanted newborn offspring of 'fallen' (usually raped) and impoverished women anonymously, and offer some hope of their survival. In the simplest cases, abandoned babies (trovatelli or foundlings) were often left 'exposed' on the steps of a church, presbytery, or convent, so they could easily be found and delivered to the Church's maybe not-so-tender care. Infant exposure has ben widely practised for millennia, often in special places, - for example, on a flat-topped rock outside a town, or under a special tree or bush..

In late mediæval times unwanted babies were thrown in rivers (notably the Tiber) or secreted in rubbish-heaps, or sold to childless couples, or more often sold as future servant labour or prostitutes, as (some centuries later) unwanted children were sold or delivered to Canada, the USA and Australia.

Niches or little platforms were provided, but different methods evolved to safeguard both the health of the newborn baby and to make the deposit quick and efficient. These "drop-off points" included the 'foundling wheel' (torna-ruota, or ruota degli esposti in Italian) set in a baby-hatch.

This could be a horizontal wooden and hollow cylinder with a small door on one side, installed so that half remained inside the building and half outside on the road, on the same principle of the revolving plates for depositing and receiving money etc. in banks, etc. A woman (usually a nun or novice) on the inside, alerted by a baby's cries or the ringing of a bell, would turn the wheel, thus bringing the baby inside while the mother - or other person if, for example, the mother had died from complications of childbirth - could slip or stumble away without being seen.

Gioacchino Toma, 'La guardia alla ruota dei trovatelli', or 'The Watcher at the Baby-hatch', 1877.
Toma himself (known as ''
The Painter in Greys') was dumped at an orphanage when he was ten years old.


The child became the property of the orphanage or foundlings' hospital. From then on their lives were 'in the service of God' - i.e. the Church - and we now know how grim that might have been, especially for girls.

This rare and rustic example at Caylus, dating from the late 15th century, and situated directly behind the 13th century church, has a possibly-symbolic vulvular mandorla shape...symbolising re-birth ?


A more basic - even severe - example at Montedoro, Sicily.



The Ruota degli Esposti at the Ospedale della Santissima Annunziata in Naples.

photos by Edoardo Caporusso


The Ruota of the Orphanage (Spedale degli Innocenti), Florence, 1660

photograph by courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The scroll above the hatch, held by happy foundlings, has a reference to Psalm 26 and the date: 1660.


Since the constitutional, universal right to abortion has been abolished in the USA, the practice of infant deposit has resumed there.

Safe Haven laws allow a mother to give up her new-born baby for adoption, at a designated site, anonymously and without risk of prosecution. Safe Haven legislation first appeared in the US in 1999 in Texas, in response to a rise in the number of abandoned babies. Now it exists in every state. These laws were never intended as an alternative to abortion. But as the options for unhappily pregnant women diminish, some are anticipating an increase in the number of babies left by desperate mothers in hospitals and specially designed Baby Boxes at local fire stations.

Niche pour recueillir les enfants abandonnés, Caylus.

Francis Cahuzac

En 1198 le pape Innocent III déclare que les orphelinats doivent installer des "ruote per i trovatelli" (boîtes à bébé ou tours d’abandon) où les femmes peuvent laisser les enfants dans l’anonymat tout en améliorant les chances de survie des enfants.

Les premières boîtes à bébé sont nées et se répandent dans toute l’Europe. Cette pratique consiste à déposer le bébé sur un dispositif placé sur la façade de l’hospice et fonctionne comme un guichet tournant. L’enfant est recueilli de l’autre côté par les responsables de l’hospice qui l’hébergent et le nourrissent.

Datant des XVe ou XVIe siècles, cette petite niche ovale, bien ouvragée et que le temps a quelque peu malmené, était destinée à recueillir les nouveaux-nés que leur mère abandonnait. En ces temps là, l'église récupérait ces enfants qui étaient destinés, dans la plupart des cas, à vivre dans un monastère et servir l'église leur vie durant.

Ce type d'ouvrage est connu également en façade de l'ancien Hôtel-Dieu, l'église Saint-Nicolas de Troyes en Champagne. La forme de l'ouverture n'est pas sans rappeler celle par lequel est sorti le petit être peu de temps auparavant, symbolisant ainsi une nouvelle naissance.


photographed November, 2020.

The house was for a time the residence of the sculptor Yosip Zadkine, one of whose best sculptures
is a huge Risen Christ carved from a local tree-trunk, which is in the church opposite.


For more of my pictures of Caylus see here.


The Romanesque remains of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, 12 km away,
are discussed on one of my other websites.

see also:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gioacchino_Toma (in Italian)

http://gerval2.free.fr/nicheaenfants82caylus.htm (in French)


http://himetop.wikidot.com/ruota-degli-esposti (in English)

For modern versions in various countries, see : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_hatch




Though it is without a baby-hatch, Irish readers might be interested in reading the history of the Dublin Foundlings Hospital.



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