Courtney A. Krolikoski
Search for other papers by Courtney A. Krolikoski in
Current site
Google Scholar
Kissing lepers
Saint Francis and the treatment of lepers in the central Middle Ages
in Leprosy and identity in the Middle Ages
Abstract only
Log-in for full text

While leprosy was often associated in the Middle Ages with the stigma of sin, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries lepers also held a special religious status that made them the ideal recipients of charity and popular devotion. The Church used this dual status of the leper to suit its contemporary needs. What resulted were two distinct but conflicting understandings of the nature of leprosy. However, during the twelfth century, and increasingly in the thirteenth century, leprosy came to be depicted as a disease of the ‘poor of Christ’. Lepers, according to this view, suffered on earth so that they could bypass purgatory. Leprosy came to be seen as an illness miraculously granted by God. This chapter considers one of the decisive factors in this shift: namely, the influence of charismatic religious figures, or saints. The impact of the saints has been largely neglected in the study of social perceptions of leprosy. As foci of great religious devotion, saints played a powerful role in the medieval world. The chapter focuses on that played by one widely known and influential saint, Francis of Assisi. Through a close reading of a selection of sources, as well by situating these sources in their historical context, it charts one man’s influence over social perceptions of what was, and in many ways remains, a highly stigmatised disease.

  • Collapse
  • Expand

Leprosy and identity in the Middle Ages

From England to the Mediterranean


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 187 58 6
Full Text Views 18 7 0
PDF Downloads 25 12 0