LIFE AS A LEPER
Initially, leprosy was considered an upper-class disease in Europe. Early accusations of leprosy were made against those in positions of power, the result of such charges was the loss of such power. At this point, there were no physical limitations upon a leper's movements because it was not yet associated with infection. Leprosy limits freedom of movement and becomes associated with negative rhetoric only when the lower classes and the poor begin to develop the disease, by the 1170s. Once leprosy becomes associated with the poor, there are virtually no cases of the disease in the upper classes.
There was no MEDICAL epidemic of leprosy in Europe in the twelfth century--there are too few skeletons with the disease from the time; moreover, the bacteria of Hansen's disease could not have flourished in the cold Northern European climate.
In the mid twelfth century in Western Christendom, the social effects of leprosy included loss of civic status, removal from public offices, and a prohibition on property inheritance as well as the creation of legacies; the leper was regarded as a sinner. At the same time in the Eastern Kingdom of Jerusalem, a leper's civil rights were protected, and there was no association between leprosy and sin/immorality. It is interesting to note that the Eastern medical diagnosis was much more accurate.