The Leprosy Museum (Lepramuseet) in Bergen is housed in the 18th century buildings of St Jørgen’s (St George’s) Hospital, where the old main building with bedrooms and kitchens for the residents and St. Jørgen’s Church are open for visitors. The hospital was founded before 1411, rebuilt after a fire in 1702 and in use as a hospital institution until 1946, when the two last residents passed away. The buildings have been protected as a heritage site by national heritage legislation since 1927, and the museum opened in 1970.
The museum’s main exhibit gives information about leprosy and its prevalence in Norway, about the public’s efforts to combat the disease in the 19th century, and about the famous Norwegian contributions to leprosy research. Between 1850 and 1900, Bergen had three leprosy hospitals and the largest concentration of patients in Europe, and the Norwegian authorities made large resources available to overcome this widespread health problem. Gerhard Armauer Hansen's discovery of the leprosy bacillus in Bergen in 1873 represented an international breakthrough in medical science.
For many visitors the main purpose for the museum visit is experiencing the authentic hospital buildings and imagining how everyday life here must have been like. The main exhibit includes portraits of some of the residents, as well as the names of the 8231 individuals in Norway known to be diagnosed with leprosy from the establishment of the National Leprosy Registry in 1856 and up until the last cases were detected in the 1950’s. The registry is part of the Leprosy Archives in Bergen, included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme.
Entry updated October 2022