The lazarhouse in England
There were always new ones, the wanderers who made their way the length of the land from lazarhouse to lazarhouse, or settled for a while in some hermitage on the charity of a patron, before moving on to new solitudes. Some went on crutches or leaned hard on staves, having feet maimed by the rot of disease or painful with ulcers. One or two pushed themselves along on little wheeled carts. One hunched shapeless against the fence, bloated with sores and hiding a disfigured face within his cowl. Several, though active, went with veiled faces, only the eyes uncovered.
Their numbers varied as the restless wandered on, shunning the town as they must shun all towns, to some other hospice looking out over another landscape. . .
In the shrouded anonymity of dark cloak and hood, and the cloth veil that hid even the faces of those worst disfigured, men and women, old and young, seemed to go secretly and along through the remnant of life left to them. . .
Those who whiten like ash, those whose skin powders away in gray patches, in the extreme of their disease do not feel, like other men. They injure themselves, bleed, and are unaware of the injury. They let a foot stray into the fire, sleeping, and only awake to the stench of their own flesh burning. They touch and cannot be sure they touch, hold and cannot lift what they would take up. Without sensation, without purpose, fingers, toes, hands, feet, drop away and rot.
-The Leper of Saint Giles, Ellis Peters
Archaeological evidence has proved that Hansen's disease, as leprosy is now termed, was present in several forms [in England], including lepromatous, the most virulent and disfiguring. - 1215, The Year of Magna Carta, Danny Danziger & John Gillingham
Between 1066 and 1250, monastic orders in England established 300 leper hospitals. Brothers and lay brothers volunteered to serve the stricken.
"It was not unknown that attendant should become attended, but there was never want of another volunteer to replace and nurse him." - Ellis Peters