Haunting Images from Abandoned Leper Colony of Chios

Just a few kilometers north of the modern town of Chios in the island lies a row of abandoned buildings, which for centuries served as a leper colony.

Sixty years since the asylum was abandoned, the derelict buildings offer a sometimes macabre, often poignant insight into their history.

If it were not for the smashed doors, the stripped beds that lie rusting, and rotting floorboards, one would be mistaken to think that these buildings were abandoned relatively recently.

Yet, the last patient left the asylum door in 1957, the year when all Greece’s leper colonies were shut down following the discovery of the drug against leprosy.

The colony, called Lovokomeio, opened in 1378 as the first leper colony in Greece and one of the first in all of Europe.

It was intended to isolate those suffering from leprosy and other contagious skin diseases from the rest of society, in order to avoid infecting others.

The origins of leprosy, now known to be caused by a bacterium, were then unknown, adding to the stigma placed on its sufferers.

The colony at Chios started to decline during the 19th century, when the island was the centre of fierce fighting in the Greek War of Independence.

By the middle of the century Chios was largely deserted, and the situation was worsened by an 1881 earthquake, which killed nearly 8,000 people.