Ruota degli Esposti

These photos represent "La Ruota degli Esposti" (The revolving basket), a famous "drop-off" point for abandoned infants from the Ospedale della Santissima Annunziata in Naples (Via Egiziaca a Forcella). The revolving basket was a device, usually made out of wood, divided into two independent parts by a little door: one of these parts were turned towards the street, the other, instead, was generally turned towards a church or a nunnery. From the street-side the people left the “exposed”, or rather the babies, to the nuns. Because of the state of absolute poverty, all along in Italy (and in particular in Naples) it was very difficult for the oversupplied families to take care of all of their children: so the parentes gave these undesired babies to the local churches. The only way to do so without being seen was to let the children in the hole of the wheel's street-side; this was usually made at night. The parents gave the children some distinguishing marks, to be able to recognize them in case that they wanted to take the babies back. Since the XVI century, the nuns begun to record the date and the hour of the children's entrance; they also recorded the children's features and their distinguishing marks. The wheel was closed in 1875, but since the Italy's unification didn't eradicate the poverty, for a lot of years the babies were left on the steps of the churches, at night.


A view of Santissima Annunziata Maggiore's front side.


A particular of the wheel.

  • Photos by Edoardo Caporusso (December 2011)


- R. De Maio, Riforme e miti nella Chiesa del Cinquecento Napoli 1973 (II ed. Napoli 1992): chapter on the "Ospedale dell'Annunziata", pp. 241-249

- M.Sessa (a cura di), Il patrimonio del povero. Istituzioni sanitarie, caritative, assistenziali ed educative in Campania dal XIII al XX secolo, Napoli 1997

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