Lepers hospital

Leprosy people of Jerusalem used to live in neglected stone huts close to the Zion Gate. They formed a closed community, marrying among themselves and making a living by begging. In 1865 the Pomeranian Baron von Keffenbrink, from Nehringen on Tribsee (close to Rostock, Germany), and his wife came to the Holy Land and was shocked at the leper’s living conditions. The Baroness initiated a building of an asylum. A group of protestants formed the organization and purchased a plot near the water source of Mamilla – today at Agron Street no. 20, Jerusalem.

The Mamilla Asylum

Conrad Schick prepared the plans for the modest building which was constructed by an Arab builder. In 1867 it opened on the west side of the then walled in city of Jerusalem. The asylum was constructed on a plot of 7800 sq.m. Schick’s plan allowed for eight rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, but only two rooms were erected. The building cost 1,000 golden Napoleons. Initially patients feared to enter the facility and at its opening only four of the fifty intended took up residence – all were Moslem’s.

The dedication of the house took place on May 30th 1867. Responsible for the economy was the German banker Johannes Frutiger, a resident in Jerusalem and a fellow of Conrad Schick, also from Chrischona, Basel.

A year after the institution was opened it was full, inhabited by 12 patients. The second report, for 1868-70, spoke of 15. However, most sufferers were still with-out the house.

In 1875, a new building at Silwan was completed and the new Pasha, Ali Bey, concentrated in it the sufferers who were still at large. In its four rooms, 33 patients were housed. Conrad Schick was the architect of this house as well and his fellow Johannes Frutiger responsible for the economy.

Lepers hospital “Jesus Hilfe” built 1885 – 1887

In 1881 the Baroness decided to stop her contributions, but the Moravian Church, the Herrnhut Brothers (Brudergemeinde) – took then over the responsibility. One year later a decision was made to build a neColony) in Refaim Valley at 17 Marcus St. Schick also designed this German-inspired impressive building, called “Jesus Hilfe”.

The building was dedicated on the 24th April 1887. At the main entrance, facing south are double stairs which lead to the entrance to the 1st floor. Above the entrance, chiselled in stone in German was Jesus-Hilfe. The 1st floor was planned around an inner courtyard. The rooms were connected by means of a passage and an arcade surrounding the courtyard on all sides. The rooms of the 2nd floor were joined by a verandah and a wooden staircase leading to the courtyard. The garden enabled the patients to indulge in the growing of various plants. In the courtyard were two large wells.

Jesus hilfe

In 1908, the institution was transferred to the management of the Deaconesses from the Herrnhut church. In 1893 a children’s section was opened for the healthy children of affected parents. Medical treatment, in the new building, was directed by Dr. Einsler, married to Lydia, a daughter of Conrad Schick.

The number of patients was 70 at the end of the century. Kaiser Wilhelm made a donation at his visit 1898 that enabled a new wing to be build. The hospital was passed over to the Israeli state in 1950. It then changed its name to Hansens hospital.

Hansen’s disease is an alternative name for leprosy! Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent of leprosy, was discovered by G. H. Armauer Hansen in Norway in 1873, making it the first bacterium to be identified as causing disease in humans.

Jesus Hilfe was the third hospital for leprosy in Jerusalem, Schick was the architect of all three. Still the old text “Jesus hilfe” can be read on the fasade.

For more information click here.

The building is now (2013) being renovated by the municipality to be made into a multimedia art centre.

Updated information from the architect.


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