Leprosy in Europe – The Island

Some of you may remember the recent novel by Victoria Hislop based around the Greek island called Spinalonga that was a leprosy colony from 1903 to 1957. Spinalonga was fortified in the 16th century by the Venetians and then occupied by the Ottomans in the 18th century. The Cretans re-took it in the 19th century and it was turned into a leprosy colony in the early 20th century. The last occupant was a priest who lived there until 1962. Recently some archive film made during a visit to the island in 1927 was unearthed in the archives of the Pasteur Institute. At this time there were many leprosy affected people living there, who had been put on the island to spend their lives away from the mainland population, and the film shows them as they greeted the visitors, including a famous physician and Nobel Prize winner called Charles Nicolle. The film is silent but quite haunting, especially to those of us familiar with leprosy. In the 21st century, there are only a very few leprosy colonies left in Europe. See the film Here