|Baldwin IV as depicted in the Hollywood Film "The Kingdom of Heaven"|
|Baldwin IV shown leading the Army of Jerusalem in "The Kingdom of Heaven"|
Without doubt, leprosy is one of the most appalling diseases known to man. Victims of the disease suffer from symptoms including a loss of feeling in their affected limbs, a discoloring and hardening of the skin, disfiguring growths or nodules that deform the face, hands and legs, open ulcers, particularly on the soles of the feet. In its most virulent form, the disease can deform even the skeleton and skull, while progressively triggering a deterioration of control over one’s limbs. Finally, in its advanced stages the victim loses toes, fingers, ears, nose, and eyesight. This gradual decay of the body led observers to compare lepers to the “living dead” or “walking corpses.”
|A Medieval Carving which appears to show a Leper.|
Leprosy is a global phenomenon, present today on every continent. While some scientists suggest it originated in East Africa (along with mankind and horses), the oldest anthropological evidence of the disease is a nearly 3,000 year old skeleton found in India. Certainly it was known in ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient China, and is recorded in the Old Testament as well.
|The Leper Hospital at Jerusalem no longer exists. This is the hospital of St. John, also from the crusader period.|
|A Medieval Chapter House where the Members of a Community Met|