La Paix Hospital

Before I start telling you the story of La Paix (Peace) Hospital, I first wish to say a few words about St. Vincent de Paul and  the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul,  called in current use  The Daughters of  Charity or Charity Girls. 

Born on 24 April 1581 in Pouy, today Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, very close to Dax, in the Landes region, Vincent is the third of a family of six children. As a young man he took care of  animals and  kept the flock. From the age of 15 onwards, he studied at the Recollects of Dax (Recollects: French reform branch of the Order of Friars Minor, which was founded in France in the late 16th century, commonly known today as the Franciscans). Being an intelligent boy, he pursued his studies at the University of Toulouse as of 1597 and became priest at the age of nineteen.

Faced with the great spiritual and physical misery of his time, he set to work so that the poor were loved, helped and evangelized. At the time, children were abandoned at church  gates or taken by beggars who broke their limbs to excite pity.

In 1612 he became parish priest in Clichy. In 1617, in Folleville, the confession of a peasant made him discover the spiritual and corporal distress of the poor. The same year in Chatillon-les-Dombes upon seeing a family struck by disease and misery, Vincent de Paul  was deeply touched by suffering and poverty. Thus, he solicited the help of wealthy women. He soon realized that charity had to be organized.

At the end of 1624 or in the beginning of 1625, Vincent de Paul met Louise de Marillac (Paris,12 August 1591 - Paris, 15 March 1660). On 17 April 1625, he founded the Congregation of the Mission, called the Lazarists to train priests and to evangelize the countryside.
St. Vincent de Paul’s portrait
Louise de Marillac’s portrait
In 1630 Marguerite Naseau (1594-1633), a peasant woman of Suresnes who heard about the welfare  carried out by Mr. Vincent came to find him in Paris and offered him her services. Mr. Vincent presented her to Louise de Marillac. Other young girls followed her.
Marguerite Naseau’s portrait
As of 1630, Vincent entrusted Louise de Marillac with the training of the first sisters who devoted themselves to the different brotherhoods. Louise agreed to provide training and government for the small group of girls who met at her home on 29 November 1633. Thus was born the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity.

First of all, they took care of the poor patients at home, in the towns and in the country-side, and than gradually,  they took care of the needs of  hospitalized patients, foundlings, galley slaves, wounded soldiers, refugees, elderly and mentally ill patients. They also took care of girls' education.

Mr. Vincent de Paul died on 27 September 1660. He was beatified by Benedict XIII on 13 August 1729 and canonized by Clement XII on 16 June 1737.

The Daughters of Charity, all dedicated to God, cover a vast field of activities in the humanitarian and social domain all working for justice, peace and solidarity at the same time.

The Daughters of Charity is  the  largest group of nuns  in the Catholic Church, their number is around 14,500. They are active in 94 countries including Turkey.


Saint Vincent de Paul was longing to send the Daughters of Charity to faraway countries in order to carry the word of God. But this wish could not be realized until the first half of the 19th century. The first mission was to open up in the Ottoman Empire.

At the time, two young ladies, Tournier and Oppermann wished to devote their lives to Lord. Miss Bernardine Oppermann of German origin and the Protestant faith was attracted deeply by the Foundling Hospital while visiting Paris. She visited the Institution and admired it. Meanwhile, another Protestant girl of Genevan origin, Louise-Amélie Albertine Tournier,  who wanted to devote herself entirely to God, knocked on the door of the Daughters of Charity Society at 140 Rue de Bac, in Paris.

Both of them requested admission to the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity.  Unfortunately their request was rejected due to age, both of them being 32 at the time.

Consequently, the Superiors proposed them to go to Constantinople (Istanbul) to open a girls’ school under the direction of 'Lazarist Fathers'. At the time, this mission seemed to be utterly  impossible. However, in case of success, they would keep the hope of having the Holy Habit and White Cornet of the Daughters of Charity. The Baptism and the First Communion of these ladies took place  on May 1839.
The Holy Habit and the White Cornet of Charity Girls
On 8 July 1839, they embarked for Constantinople where they opened a school which immediately achieved great success. Seeing things functioning so well, the Superiors decided to send  two more Girls of the Charity to meet them and to present them the Holy Habit which was a visible sign  of  their acceptance to the family of Saint Vincent. This marked the beginning of charity work in Istanbul. 
Mid-19th century Istanbul by Giovanni Brindesi (1826-1888)
Two months later, five more Daughters of  Charity arrived in Smyrne (Izmir).

The Crimean War  represented the beginning of an era of glamour and influence for the institutions of Daughter of Charity.


The historians who narrate the heroism of the soldiers forget very often  the help and the devotion of the Daughters of Charity during the Crimean  War (1854-1856).
The Charity Girls while giving aid to the injured on the battelfield, 1854
Besides the Sisters who lived in Istanbul, 255 Sisters were sent from France to nurse the soldiers either wounded or ill. Twenty-five Piedmontese Sisters joined them. There were also fifteen religious Irish sisters.

During the Crimean War, the military hospitals in Istanbul used by the  French Army were ten without taking into account those of the two marine ones situated in Therapia, and another one on one of the Islands of Prince (Kalkis or Heybeliada).

The Governance of the Ottoman Empire put all the state buildings of the capital to the services of the French and the English armies. As these did not suffice, the main barracks were transformed into hospitals. The buildings of the Military School, those of the Faculty of Medicine and the University were  also converted into hospitals.

The Sisters embraced the French and the Italian soldiers with their care. It is known that, on this expedition  out of 95000 French soldiers who have lost their lives, 75000  have died of diseases. In the winter of 1855-1856 alone, of the 47000 French soldiers hospitalized, 9000 died either of cholera, typhus, dysentery or scurvy.

The work of the Daughters of Charity was not only confined to mobile services and hospitals. It included the care of the wounded and the sick people on the boats arriving from Crimea and the visit of prisoners either detained for transgression and faults against military discipline or the Russians captured in the battles near Sebastopol.

Around a hundred Daughters of Charity suffered from these contagious diseases and thirty-three of them have passed away.


After the Crimean War, Abdulmejid the Ottoman Sultan  considered honouring Sisters for their services rendered in hospitals of the Army by awarding them medals. The Daughters of Charity said, instead of having medals, they preferred to be accorded with more means so that they could provide more charity. Their wish was conveyed to his Majesty by the French Ambassador. Following this response, Sultan Abdulmejid, with the French Ambassador’s request, granted a vast land the surface area of which  was 29.500 m2, on17 April 1857.  The Sultan also granted 50000 francs to start the construction. 
Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid  reigned between 1839 and 1861

The Office of the Quartermaster of the French Army, on their part gave a good number of beds already used by the Sisters on the mobile hospital first run on the site of the actual hospital. The Grand Vizier  made a donation of 3000 francs. At the end of 1858, the construction of the hospital with its Chapel dedicated  to Holy Virgin, was completed. This hospital which was called Notre Dame de la Paix was opened to all kinds of charitable organization.
Plan of hospital buildings
Aerial view of the La Paix hospital
Another view of the hospital
The Chapel of the La Paix Hospital
The apse of the Chapel

The interior of the Chapel
The portrait of St. Vincent de Paul on the wall of the Chapel
The portrait of Louise de Marillac on the wall of the Chapel
One of the stained-glass windows of the Chapel
The ancient Military Cemetery  of the La Paix Hospital. Many of the French  soldiers who died during the
Crimean War in 1854, 1855 and 1856 were buried in this cemetery. In 1887, Captain Léon Berger,
the Military Attaché of the  French Embassy undertook the transfer of the six officers and 10500 soldiers
from La Paix hospital to the section reserved for the soldiers on the Catholic-Latin graveyard in Feriköy.
The Cross of the old Cemetery of the La Paix hospital
Grave of the French soldiers who have lost their lives during the Crimean War in 1854 and 1855
In the small cemetery of the La Paix Hospital were also buried a number of  Sisters and some residents of the Institution.
When it was put out of use, the tomb stones were affixed to the wall.

In the month of February 1902, Mr. Constans, the French Ambassador to Istanbul, with his spouse, Mrs Constans and the Consul General  visited the hospital. The Sister Superior expressed the wish to have  the land between the street and the hospital annexed and have the hospital surrounded by a wall.  A few days later, during an imperial feast, the question was brought up skillfully by Mrs. Constans and his Majesty Abdulhamit II replied: “May the land the Sisters wish be granted and the permission to surround it by a wall be given”. But the Ambassador resumed saying such a construction would require money yet the Sisters were poor. “Well”, said his Majesty, “the architect of the Palace will have it done at my expenses”. A few months later all had been  completed. 
Son of the Sultan Abdulmejid, Sultan Abdulhamid II reigned between 1876 and 1909

In memory of the donation of his Majesty, two inscriptions in gold letters both in Old Turkish and French were placed on each column of the Front  Gate. Nowadays, these inscriptions no longer stand on each side of the Gate but are displayed within the hospital.
The former main gate of the La Paix Hospital. On each column of the gate there were two inscriptions
one in Old Turkish and the other in French, commemorating the donation of his Majesty, Abdulhamid II.
         The inscription in  Old Turkish                       
    The inscription in French 


On 27 February 1902, His Imperial Majesty Sultan Abdulhamid II donated this land at the request of His Excellency Mr. Constans, the French Ambassador, to La Paix Hospital in renewed imperial recognition of the kindness, pity and compassion shown towards orphans and the sick people. His Imperial Majesty  had a wall constructed surrounding it at his expenses.

Since 1858 La Paix Hospital has been mainly a psychiatric and neuro-psychiatric hospital. Presently, it has 150 beds and several outpatient clinics.

Address: Büyükdere Street No.18 Şişli 34360
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