International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy




    Category Leprosarium
    Country Greece


    Spinalonga, a small island in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, was used to isolate people affected by leprosy from 1903 to 1957.

    In 1901, the Cretan government passed a decree for the isolation of people affected by leprosy and established Spinalonga as the location for the colony. Settlement began in 1903, and by October 1904, 251 people lived at Spinalonga (148 men and 103 women).

    With Greece involved in several wars and struggling financially during the early twentieth century, the inhabitants of Spinalonga lived in very poor conditions. There was inadequate supply of fresh water for drinking and washing, and the patients were not given the ability to grow their own food. Supplies were obtained through people from nearby villages, who set up a daily market on the island; however, the government allowance the Spinalonga inmates received was often insufficient to cover food and medicines.

    From 1929, conditions began to improve due to the advocacy of the Cretan Anti-Leprosy Association: an infirmary and washing facilities were built. The situation further improved due to the advocacy of Epaminondas Remoundakis, a twenty-one-year-old law student who contracted leprosy in 1936. Remoundakis petitioned the government with demands for improved living conditions. With other Spinalonga inhabitants, he established an advocacy organisation, the Brotherhood of Spinalonga Patients. Under his influence, a theatre, cinema, and school were established on Spinalonga.

    In 1933, there were 954 inhabitants living on Spinalonga. Numbers gradually declined as patients were cured and left the island. The last twenty patients were relocated to a leprosy hospital in Athens in 1957.


    'Epaminondas Remoundakis'. Complete Greece. Web.

    'The Leper Island'. Explore Crete. Web.

    Karamanou, M., et al. "L’île des lépreux : Spinalonga." PRESSE MEDICALE 42.11 (2013): 1526-9. Web.

    Go back to previous page.