As Porter, Watts, Risse, Moore, and Brody each emphasize, the chief response of Western Christian society during the High Middle Ages to the spread of leprosy was to support leprosaria, but as this study demonstrates, these institutions had a long history stretching back to the Greek Christian fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries, institutions which were clearly not meant to confine lepers or punish them for their alleged sins.
Numerous collections of regulations survive from the French leprosaria of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and provide much information on how the lepers lived their daily lives in these hospices.
The statutes of the leprosarium at Lille in Northern France provide additional evidence that medieval leprosaria were not designed to imprison lepers or to punish them in any way.
In his book on Anglo-Norman medicine, historian Edward Kealey studied English leprosaria and included a commentary on the earliest regulations to survive from any leper hospital in Europe, those from Saint Mary Magdalene at Dudston (ca.
This canon required that leprosaria throughout Europe provide chapels and cemeteries for leper hospitals and hire leper priests to serve there.
Even a cursory rereading of the primary sources reveals that leprosaria were never designed to confine victims of leprosy.
The Christian leprosaria, branded by Watts, Risse, Moore, Brody, and Ells as places of exile, never served as prisons, but as havens of physical and spiritual support in an often hostile secular world.
For a summary of leprosaria rules, see the introduction to Leon Le Grand's edition of leprosaria rules.
32) The community regulations for medieval French leprosaria were collected and published by Le Grand, in Statuts d'hotels-Dieu et de leproseries.