International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Naestved St George’s Hospital (Næstved Sankt Jørgens Spital)


    Category Leprosarium
    Country Denmark


    Naestved St George’s Hospital (Sankt Jørgens Spital) was a medieval leprosy hospital, operating c. 1250-1550 C.E. near Naestved (Aaderup), Sjaelland, Denmark.

    A 1492 decree by King Hans of Denmark offers an insight into life at St George’s. Inmates had complained that their needs were not being met and that they were not receiving their income from the warden, Jens Boesen. The king’s decree sets out the conditions that should henceforth be met in the hospital, including income, food, and the maintenance of buildings and grounds. It was also specified that no further healthy people were to be admitted to the hospital. A mayor and councillor were to make monthly visits to ensure that the king’s orders were being followed. (Quoted in Richards, p. 144.)

    Vilhelm Møller-Christensen rediscovered the site of the hospital in 1948, and systematically excavated it over the following twenty years, establishing the presence of leprosy in medieval Denmark. The cemetery included the remains of 750 people, many of which showed clear signs of leprosy. The foundations of a church were also discovered.

    Møller-Christensen published many papers on his findings from the St George’s cemetery, examining bone changes and performing comparisons with modern-day leprosy patients. His work made a major contribution to the description of leprosy in the Middle Ages, and improved the understanding of bone changes in leprosy.

    The remains from Naestved are today held by the Medical Museion at the University of Copenhagen. On 2 July 2011, a storm flooded the basement level of the museum, where the Naestved collection was stored, putting much of the collection at risk of water damage. It was reported that museum staff were working to save the collection.


    Møller-Christensen, Vilhelm. "Location and Excavation of the First Danish Leper Graveyard from the Middle Ages – St. Jørgen's Farm, Naestved." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 27 (1953): 112. Web.

    Bennike, Pia. ‘Paleopathology in Denmark: The Pioneers Vilhelm Møller-Christensen and Johannes G. Andersen.’ In Roberts, Charlotte, ed. The global history of paleopathology: Pioneers and prospects. Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Richards, Peter. The Medieval Leper and His Northern Heirs. Cambridge, Eng: D. S. Brewer ; Totowa, N.J, 1977. Web.

    Söderqvist, Thomas. ‘Wet to the bone — saving Medical Museion’s collections after the Copenhagen cloudburst’. Medical Museion. Online. Accessed 26 December 2015.


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