St. Bernard’s Leper Colony: From Abandonment to Confinement

St. Bernard’s Leper Colony: From Abandonment to Confinement

In 1726, the first cases of leprosy were reported on Bourbon Island. But if we identify and retain the case of lepers, nothing, or very little, will be done to help them, and still less to cure them. It was not until 1856 that leprosy was established and leprosy could be treated. The site is located in Saint Bernard, and operated until 1982.

In 1840, a committee proposed that people with leprosy be stopped in an isolated location where they could receive care. But the administration does not have the financial means to see this proposal come to light. But lepers frighten good people and there is fear of infection. In 1850, Governor Duret received various complaints from notables, particularly accusing the mayors of not doing anything to curb the spread of leprosy or interfering in any way with those afflicted with leprosy.

According to the census conducted in 1852, there were officially 107 cases of people suffering from this terrible disease: 90 men and 17 women. Saint Paul has the highest number of victims (16), Saint Susan and Saint Andre 14 and 13 respectively, and Saint Louis 12.

The year 1852 marked the real beginning of the administration’s involvement in the fight against leprosy and the care of those affected by leprosy. A decree of Governor Louis Isaac Hilaire Duret, dated 25 February 1852, automatically confined “any person recognized by the Commission of Sanitary to be infected with leprosy” to the place called “Ravine à Jacques”, not far from the Grande Chaloupe. In this particularly isolated place, every patient is now fed and cared for at the colony’s expense.

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If the colonial administration was no longer indifferent, the situation of isolated lepers in the former Ravine à Jacques sanitarium was still far from ideal. When he visited the site on September 21, 1853, Governor Hubert de L’Isle, who succeeded Governor Duret, discovered a disastrous situation on the humanitarian, medical and sanitary levels, and he would strive to improve it by all means. .

After the Valley of Jacques, the lepers were transferred to another site, at the foot of Saint-François Hill, in the heart of Saint-Denis. But this “mixing” between the lepers and the rest of the population prompted the governor to resettle the lepers elsewhere: Saint Bernard, in the mountain, since 1856. There had been, for more than a century, lepers on the island. They were kept and cared for until the establishment closed in 1982… Since then, the place has found a new life with shops and in particular a restaurant.

Sources: “From a Cob to a Stone” (Prosper Yves – 1999)


The shadow of Mary Magdalene of the cross…

On April 16, 1849, Aimé Pinault de Fresnes, who later became Mary Magdalene of the Cross, established the only “B” congregation of the faith, an oath she swore on October 15, 1840, before her dying father. : “I want to devote myself to serving the most abandoned beings, especially the elderly, the infirm, and those afflicted with leprosy. This part that the world rejects will henceforth be mine.”
Throughout her life she brought the strength of her faith and dedication to the cause of lepers.

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About the Author: Irene Alves

"Bacon ninja. Guru do álcool. Explorador orgulhoso. Ávido entusiasta da cultura pop."

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