Applications for admission to Pleiestiftelsen

A number of applications for admission to Pleiestiftelsen are preserved in the archives. There are also piles of letters to the other leprosy hospitals, applying for a place or ‘admission’ to the institution.

The applications could be written by a district medical officer, a priest, a representative of the local Poor Commission, the sick person or a family member. The writing may be refined and have elegant swirls, or be more slapdash and almost unreadable to the untrained eye. Some of the applications are concise and formal, while others give long descriptions of why a place was being sought. There are examples of applications that only include the line ‘the leprous individuals mentioned below request admission to Pleiestiftelsen,’ followed by a whole list of names.

Application for admission to Pleiestiftelsen. Regional State Archives of Bergen.
Brief application from district medical officer Kjelsberg from 1897, applying for a place for four people.
The Regional State Archives of Bergen.

There are also other applications with long letters in which the sick person or someone in their family describes the progression of the disease, the conditions at home, and why they want to move to a hospital. The risk of infection is sometimes mentioned, or that the local community does not want to shoulder the responsibility of providing for the sick person. In other applications, you can see glimpses of hope for a better life or a desire not to be a burden on their family.

These letters provide a unique glimpse of the people whose lives were turned upside down by the disease. It was not just the sick whose lives were affected, but also those around them, as expressed in the letter from a mother who asks a clergyman for help to write an application to admit her son:

‘I would like to ask you cordially to be so kind and write an application to Bergen so that my son Jørgen Mathiasen can be admitted to Pleiestiftelsen No. 1 as he wants to be allowed to go there. His eyes have recently become so bad and his one hand is so weak that he is suffering and unable to care for himself. He sees so little that he cannot even write to you, which is why I, in great deprivation, must do this for him. O how difficult it is for a mother who, if I may say so, must bear the grief alone and whose heart has been broken a thousand times.’

Application for admission to Pleiestiftelsen. Regional State Archives of Bergen.
Application from 1886, where Elise Jakobsen is asking the parish pastor to apply for a place in Pleiestiftelsen for her son, Jørgen Mathisen.
The Regional State Archives of Bergen.

These applications, more than anything else in the archives, perhaps offer the most insight into the residents of the hospitals. The information contained in patient records and church registers is often concise and schematic, so these preserved applications are of great value, not least to descendants wanting information about their ancestors or relatives who were admitted.

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