Last Paris prison opens its doors

Visitors to the Prison de la Santé later this month will be walking in the footsteps of generations of ‘VIP’ prisoners

8 September 2014

ONE OF France’s most famous prisons – and the last one in Paris – the Prison de la Santé is one of the more unusual locations opening for the Journées du Patrimoine this year.

Still used – but currently empty for renovations from this year to 2019 with its prisoners transferred elsewhere – the Santé is noted especially for its “VIP section” where various well-known figures have done time, as well as for a famous escape, when, in 1986, robber Michel Vaujour escaped by helicopter.

Famous “guests” of the prison over the years have ranged from the early 20th Century surrealist poet Guillaume Apollinaire (who spent a week there after being accused of being involved in the theft of the Mona Lisa), to Jacques Mesrine, known for his notorious robberies and escapes and declared “public enemy number one” in the 1970s.

More recently those who have had stints there have included the rapper Booba, Jerôme Kerviel, Xavier Niel and Bernard Tapie.

L’Express says that Kerviel, who was there for 41 days in 2008, refused to take part in daily exercise walks in the VIP courtyard for fear that Paris Match paparazzi would take photos from a flat with a view of the yard.

La Santé opened in 1867 on the site of an old convent, and before that a hospital, from which it gets its name. Situated in the Montparnasse area, it is now the last prison in Paris “intra muros” as the others serving Paris are now in the suburbs.

It is open for visits on September 20-21, but you need to reserve beforehand. See: Visit Prison de la Santé.

For more about the Journées du Patrimoine, and to find out what sites are open for visits in your area, see Journées du Patrimoine.

Scroll down on the homepage to put in your region and/or department and, if you want, narrow the choices down further by types of activity, whether the location is open “exceptionally” (ie. it is not usually possible to visit it) etc.

Photo: Patrick Cassab

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