Leprosy in Medieval and Islamic Societies

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 1996

download word file, 4 pages 3.5

Downloaded 54 times
Keywords , , , ,

Might also be helpful for religious studies even though its a history paper

Secular medicine and its attitudes towards leprosy in medieval Christian and Islamic communities were

influenced by social and religious traditions. Lack of real medical knowledge allowed these influences to affect the

understanding and treatment of disease, as well as the status of the leper in society. Medieval views of leprosy in

Christian and Islamic societies illustrated these ideas. Despite their different cultures and religions, there were some

similar and analogous trains of thought in the understanding of this disease, but different attitudes prevailed as well.

Treatment and understanding of leprosy in European society reflected many Christian ideas. Fear of contagion

and the unpleasant sight of the disease's symptoms led to the practice of separating the leper from the rest of society

(Palmer, p.80). This practice also reflected the biblical idea of the leper found in Leviticus, which calls for the 'unclean'

leper to be cut off completely from society.

In some areas priests performed Levitical rituals of separating the leper from

society (Palmer, p.81). Lepers had their own special hospitals and churches outside of town and city walls, and had to

dress in special garb identifying their affliction. Leper hospitals were under civic control, but religious influence

manifested itself in these institutions. At a hospital in Verona, Italy, statutes required incoming patients confess to the

hospital chaplain to gain admission (Palmer, p.85). Lepers could lose legal rights in some areas; being considered already

dead, their wives could remarry and they could lose control of their will (Palmer, p.81).

Ideas as to the cause and treatment differed, but there were two main conflicting themes regarding the cause

found in medieval Christian society. One idea of the cause of leprosy was sin. Sin in this case especially meant lechery.