Hôpital Caroline

A health facility on the Frioul islands

© M. Chêne
© M. Chêne
© F. Launette
Hôpital Caroline in the early 20th century © Private Collection
The imposing building, clearly visible from the sea, attracts visitors who come to explore the Frioul islands. This mysterious-looking symbol of Marseille's heritage is a former hospital, built away from the city to prevent the spread of epidemics.


The origins of Hôpital Caroline

Le Frioul has a long history of health. From the 16th century, the natural cove of Pomègues was used as an official quarantine area for ships from abroad, to prevent the spread of disease. Around 1820, a terrible yellow fever epidemic ravaged Mediterranean ports. The French State decided to modernise its facilities. In addition to building a proper quarantine port, it ordered the construction of a hospital to accommodate the sick. 


Innovative architecture and reclusive life

Inaugurated in 1828, Hôpital Caroline is a perfect example of Neo-Classical style architecture. Its architecture was innovative. With four pavilions spread around an inner courtyard, everything was designed to isolate the infected residents from those in convalescence and from the staff. To avoid contact, a chapel was even built in the centre of the courtyard. Entirely glazed, it allowed patients to follow the service from behind the windows of their pavilion.


A windy hospital

Open to the winds on all sides, the patients' pavilion is reminiscent of 19th century hygienist thinking. At that time it was thought that the wind had curative properties, carrying away the infected miasmas. When you know how strong the wind can blow on the Frioul archipelago, you can imagine just how cold the patients must have been!


An eventful history

In the end, yellow fever never struck Marseille! The hospital nevertheless received patients, particularly after the transfer of patients from the Arenc lazaretto to Frioul in 1850. The army also requisitioned the premises to treat sick soldiers.

The hospital remained in service until 1941, when it became an ammunition depot for the German army. Bombed by the Allies in 1944, it was abandoned until its acquisition by the City of Marseille in the 1970s. It was listed as a historical monument by order of 5 August 1980.


Did you know?

Hôpital Caroline got its name from Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, the wife of the Duc de Berry, second son of  Charles X, king of France.

Visiting and regulations

Hôpital Caroline is located on the island of Ratonneau, opposite Marseille: consult the page dedicated to the Frioul islands to find out more about the best practice and regulations to be followed.

restoration project launched in 2007 is still underway. Hôpital Caroline can only be visited on rare occasions, such as the European Heritage Days. More information can be obtained on the City of Marseille website on these occasions. However, from the entrance gate, it is possible to have beautiful views of the inner courtyard and the chapel.



Bateau Frioul-If from the Vieux-Port.




GPS coordinates: 43.283640, 5.319024