It is located on the Grande Île (Main Island), where the river Ill splits up into a number of canals and cascades through a small area of medieval half-timbered houses and baroque sandstone buildings. In the Middle Ages, the Petite-France was the tanning-houses and slaughterhouses area. The Grand Île was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
The name Petite-France ("Little France") was not given for patriotic or architectural reasons. It comes from the "hospice of the syphilitic" (Hospice des Vérolés, in French), which was built in the late fifteenth century on this island, to cure persons with syphilis, then called the "French disease" in German, Franzosenkrankheit.
- Strasbourg insolite et secret, L. Maechel & T. Rieger, p. 74.
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