Novel La séquestrée de Poitiers André Gide (1930)
The sequestered woman from Poitiers is discovered in a deplorable state on Arthur-Ranc street. She is then transported to the Hôtel-Dieu to be treated...
Hôtel Pinet, former Hôtel-Dieu of Poitiers (credit Daniel Clauzier / Wiki Commons)

Melanie Bastian arrived at the Hôtel-Dieu of Poitiers, on May 23, 1901, around seven o’clock in the evening.

La séquestrée de Poitiers (André Gide)

After discovering Melanie Bastian in her room, 21 rue Arthur-Ranc, the police commissioner and the examining magistrate had her rushed to the Hôtel-Dieu de Poitiers, now the Hôtel Pinet, where the city’s university is located.

Its general condition is deplorable: “She is in an appallingly dirty state, witnesses tell us at the time. The face, of a whiteness of wax, is very emaciated. The body, of an excessive thinness, covered, by places, with a thick layer of dirt. The nails of the hands and feet are very long. The hair forms a compact mass of more than one meter in length, thirty centimeters in width, and four to five centimeters in thickness… It is a compact felting, formed by the hair mixed with the excremental matters and the debris of food. The odor which came from this mass was so appalling that the doctors allowed those present to smoke.”

During the trial, only Melanie’s brother was in the dock, her mother having died a few months earlier. The affair made a lot of noise because of an article in Le petit journal. André Gide took it and wrote 29 years later La séquestrée de Poitiers. He changed the names of the protagonists. Thus, Blanche Monnier became Mélanie Bastian.

France was moved by Blanche Monnier’s case, but the verdict was incomprehensible to the general public: her brother Marcel was acquitted in November 1901. He died twelve years later in his house in Migné, near Poitiers. As for his sister, she was interned in a psychiatric hospital in Blois where she died the same year as Marcel.


Marcel Monnier was sentenced in first instance to 15 months in prison. He was acquitted a few months later.

Blanche Monnier at the Hôtel-Dieu of Poitiers, Le petit journal, illustrated supplement, n° 552, June 16, 1901.
Grande Complainte sur la pauvre femme séquestrée, excerpt, reproduced in L'histoire véridique de la séquestrée de Poitiers by Jean-Marie Augustin.
Photograph of Blanche Monnier taken upon her arrival at the Hôtel-Dieu (L'Illustration n° 3040, June 1, 1901). Photo Olivier Neuillé, Médiathèque de Poitiers.

Université de Poitiers

The University of Poitiers is one of the oldest universities in France, founded in 1431 by the will of King Charles VII.

With nearly 28,000 students in 2017, the University of Poitiers contributes to Poitiers being the city with the highest student/inhabitant ratio in France. The university has 6 sites located in downtown Poitiers, the Poitiers campus, the Futuroscope, Châtellerault, Niort and Angoulême.

The Poitiers campus is made up of 4 distinct areas, dividing the medical, economic, sports and engineering science poles.

Fun fact: University of Paris professors exiled to Poitiers following the Hundred Years War examined Joan of Arc to determine if she was telling the truth about her voices.

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Thursday, March 10, 2022

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