“… in the Land of Sorrow, in eternal pain, in the abyss of sorrow among the malevolent accursed races ….. … …… You who enter here, leave all hope…”

(Dante’s Inferno, from the Third Canto)

Spinalonga (“long thorn” in Latin)[ is a small island with an area of ​​85 acres and an altitude of 53 m., which closes from the north the bay of Elounda in the Merabello District of the Lassithi Prefecture of Crete.

In 1715 the Turks came. Many settled there, among them Cretans, Muslims by religion. During the first centuries of Turkish rule, the fortress was marginalized and used as a place of exile and isolation. But at the end of the 19th century data changed. The role of the port of Spinalonga was upgraded as it obtained an export trade license.

On July 9, 1901, the parliament passed the law “On the isolation of lepers in Crete”. This provided for: the mandatory declaration of leprosy to doctors and mayors and the punishment of offenders with a fine of ten to one hundred drachmas (article 1), the appointment of a medical inspector, who was not considered a civil servant and whose duties concerned the eradication of leprosy (Article 2), the submission to compulsory medical examinations of those who were considered suspicious and the medical inspector’s six-monthly visit to their homes to check the condition of leprosy of their health (article 3)[15]. The lepers who in 1883 were estimated at around 1000[16], it was decided to be exiled from the meskinies and confined in Spinalonga.

The  treatment of patients does not seem to have been explicitly included in the declared purposes of the Spinalonga Leprosy. The main concern was isolation, confinement and the satisfaction of the common sentiment for the defense of public health from leprosy, which had never officially been characterized as endemic or contagious but mainly hereditary. The aim seems to have been mainly to limit the spread of the disease and its gradual disappearance. After all, the choice of establishing the Leprosy Clinic on the islet of Spinalonga was favored by its inaccessible and remote geographical location. The islet was remote from the urban centers and was adjacent to other islets and the agricultural-livestock community of Elounda, which was across the street. The isolation of the marked and medically certified lepers was achieved in this way absolutely effectively, since neither their physical presence nor even remote visual contact with them would disturb or disrupt the lives of the “healthy” residents. The presence of the surrounding sea made it difficult to escape or reach land without a boat (the nearest land was 800 meters away) and precluded contact with the “healthy” without their prior approval.