A retrospective/prospective: The Penitentiary of Coti – yesterday and today

Coti July 31 2013 012Immersed in history once again, I revisited this former penitentiary around 37km outside of Ajaccio recently, where many signs of elapsed circumstances still reside. There’s a charming drive up there, accompanied by the sentful eucalyptus trees that stream and guide you on the way, so, take your time driving up too.

Opening in 1855, this penitentiary was to shelter thieves, soldiers who had disobeyed and other categories that were catalogued as ‘menacing’ individuals for society – and often in irons. Just imagine, some of the youngest were no more than 16 years of age. Now, amazing to note here, they had to be catholics too, and this was indeed a strict rule apparently. Malaria, and high fevers ravaged in the beginning, wiping out a very high percentage of its occupants. Imagining up to 800 prisoners were held here at one stage, being obliged to labour the earth, thus planting olive trees, vineyards, and water tanks/dams. You can well imagine the death rate too, many were to never to leave, and for the year 1857 alone – 110 out of 501 prisoners were to decease.

Picture 2200 acres of land, a vast settlement, splendidly situated, overlooking the bay and on the way to the town of CotiChiavari – and a place where so many were to experience loss, damnation, pain, torture and exclusion.

In 1906, the decision was taken to finally close its doors, and one of the main reasons being, the importance of expenses and continual malady. Following this, for many years it was left to abandon – as though history had put its thumb right on top of it and held it there. Deterioration/dilapidation followed, as time and nature continue to ambulate relentlessly. 1969, saw the remnants being destroyed in order to build a tourist complex – this I may add, fortunately never saw the day! Coti July 31 2013 006
I’m delighted to say, currently, the main building has been renovated and transformed for musical events/art expositions – as you will see in the images I have added, a whole new stone structure decorates and has brought a rebirth and renewal of life to these surroundings, also maintaining the fundamental interior stone structure which is so important.
The past, having been so massively struck with such misery and torment, here history appears to show her point of view and intention of radical change.
Remember to view the powder house too, just across the road, it’s very quaint through shades of pink, you may wish to sit around there for a while surrounded by welcoming greenery and a very gentle breeze.
Let your thoughts float back in years, reach out for the ongoing sensations – sense the weight in time.
                                                                                                           Coti July 31 2013 005

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