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Leprosy in the Middle Ages. The Walking Dead.

Updated on January 16, 2015

Well into the Middle Ages, Europeans had inherited the immense fear of leprosy. These fears were already reflected in the Old Testament.

To cope somehow this terrible evil in the thirteenth century the Order of St. Lazarus, in which the Grand Master was always a leper was established. The Order came to build more than 9000 hospitals scattered throughout Christendom.

The striking image of the leper, who has come from the Middle Ages modified greatly attenuated, is that of a sick person who, because of his illness, was banned from public places, fairs, taverns, markets, mills and churches. The leper could not touch things that were not owned exclusively. He was forbidden to walk the streets or narrow paths, have their meager assets, approaching any woman other than his wife, drinking water from wells or go to the fields and nearby towns without their own black robes of lepers and rough wooden bowl, which he had his little alms.

The human being who had the misfortune of being qualified Lazarus evil sick (leprosy), he was forbidden to talk to others because they thought his breath poisoned the air, this person had to stand against the wind to prevent this bear his pestilential contagion to others. At leper only was he allowed to shout "Unclean, unclean!" As it was sentenced in Leviticus, and the Christian world at that time accepted, without showing some charity to the leper.

To formalize the separation between diseased and the world of the living, a religious ceremony was performed. To represent his funeral, the priest forced the patient to descend into the grave, as he gave mass, and threw over his head a handful of sand, while pronouncing the words "Die to the world. Live for God." After the ceremony, the diseased ceased to form part of the living world. Then the priest could console saying "Do not take this the wrong being apart from others, especially when you have any part in the prayers of Holy Mother Church. Be patient and careful because God is with you! "


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    • Judit Arellano profile imageAUTHOR

      Judit Arellano 

      4 years ago from Spain

      Yes, this was done to prevent the spread, but also because it was believed that person was "possessed" or had done something wrong and was receiving some sort of divine punishment.

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 

      4 years ago from England

      Is there perhaps a comparison to Ebola? I understand medical advice is not to share or to touch- so maybe it was the old way of stopping disease from spreading?


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