Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Saint Jørgens Hospital Bergen

A monument from a lost time

Today, leprosy is a disease connected to the poor countries in the third world. If you had visited Bergen a century ago, you would have discovered that it had a considerable number of people suffering from this disabilitating disease. The Saint Jørgens Hospital in Bergen is a stark reminder of all the tragic lives lost due to leprosy, and did you know that a Norwegian doctor discovered the cause of this illness?

Saint Jørgens hospital goes as far back as 1400. It is situated in the area Marken in Bergen city centre. Here you see the main quarters where the leprosy sufferers lived and worked. They worked in the large hall and on two floors along the hall, there were numerous small rooms where one or two people stayed for much of their tragic lives isolated from their friends and families.

The Norwegian doctor Gerhard Armauer-Hansen made is ground breaking discovery of the leprosy bacteria in 1873. In fact his name is much more famous outside Norway's borders than in the country itself. It is in many countries still called Hansen's disease.

A visit to the museum is highly recommended and you may get tours in English telling you a story going back only a century, but from a completely different world from where we live today.

Saint Jørgens church

The church dedicated to Saint Jørgen (Saint George) is the oldest building at the hospital area. It was rebuilt in 1706 after the fire that raged Bergen city centre four years before.

It is built out of wood, from large, cut tree trunks, as many buildings built in the country from the period and earlier. It is a tiny building, with a simple and beautiful interior.

The men and women suffering of leprosy lived in an isolated area where people lived from cradle to grave. They had their own community far away from the world outside its walls.

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