Wheel of Fortune ?
The alley wall of the ritzy Metropole Hotel is a strange place to begin this blog feed about walking between life and death, yet the arrangement of sweet cakes in the oddly-shaped ‘feature window’ reveal a darker confection stewed with the apple of our eyes.
This device is a foundling wheel, common in the middle ages and the 18th & 19th centuries, now called a baby hatch. It was moved to the hotel from the orphanage opposite at the back of the Church of the Pietà. Mothers (usually) brought babies and left them anonymously, by placing them on a shelf of a cylinder set upright in the outside wall of the building then revolving the door, leaving them in a safe place to be found and cared for.
Pope Innocent III decreed that these should be installed so that women could leave their child in secret instead of killing them, a practice clearly evident from the numerous drowned infants found in the River Tiber. Some were abandoned because they were born out of wedlock. Today, baby hatches are more often intended to be used by mothers who are unable to cope with looking after their own child and do not wish to divulge their identity
The baby hatch was introduced again in 1952 and is currently in use in many countries, notably Germany (100 hatches) and Pakistan (300 hatches). A modern baby hatch was installed in 1999 by Door of Hope Children’s Mission church in Berea, Johannesburg. In 2013 the Door of Hope had received over 1300 babies.