Lungegård Hospital

Lungegård Hospital is perhaps the least known of Bergen’s three leprosy hospitals, although it was probably in its laboratory that Gerhard Armauer Hansen discovered the leprosy bacteria on a February evening in 1873. The hospital opened in October 1849 and was in use as a leprosy hospital until 1895. Most of its patients had leprosy, but the hospital also admitted patients with various skin diseases.

The hospital originally accommodated 60 people with leprosy and 20 people with other skin diseases, mainly syphilis. The hospital’s activities were gradually split into a curative ward and a care ward. The number of patients with other illnesses also gradually decreased, both because they didn’t want to be hospitalised with leprosy patients, and because many of the leprosy patients didn’t want to be housed with syphilis patients.

The hospital’s address was Kalfarveien 33, situated on a hilltop at Seiersbjerget, not far from Pleiestiftelsen Hospital, which was built some time later. It was part of the farm Lungegården that was purchased to build the hospital, and the hospital’s grounds extended all the way down to the waterfront of Store Lungegårdsvann bay.

The painting "The hospital fire" by Tycho Jæger. Photo: Svein Skare © University of Bergen Museum. CC BY-SA.

The fire of 1853

Just four years after Lungegård Hospital was completed, it burned to the ground in the early hours of Sunday 25 December 1853. It was an intense and tragic fire, and seven people lost their lives.

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Note from the newspaper Bergen Adressecontoirs efterretninger, 27.12.1853.

The victims of the fire 

The fact that as many as seven people died in the fire at Lungegård Hospital is said to have made a deep impression on the city’s residents. Six people died in the fire inside the building while one person was severely burned and died a few hours later.

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Census 1865.

The residents in 1865

The first census was held on 31 December 1865. There were 88 patients at the hospital on that day, 43 on the hospital’s care ward and 45 on the curative ward. There were also 18 staff living at the hospital.

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Drawing of the oldest Lungegaard hospital from the magazine "Illustreret Nyhedsblad". Photo: University of Bergen Library.

Description 1854

In 1854, the weekly magazine ‘Illustreret Nyhedsblad’ devoted two articles to leprosy and the efforts to combat the disease. One article was about head physician Danielssen and the other about Lungegård Hospital in Bergen.

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The buildings

Lungegård Hospital was built at Kalfaret, not far from the city gate. The first hospital building was made of wood and burned down just a few years after it opened, and a new brick building was taken into use at the end of the 1850s. In addition to the large hospital building, there was a building at the rear that housed a steam bath and mortuary. There was also a separate bathhouse used for bathing in Store Lungegårdsvann bay. In addition, there was a separate house for staff.

The buildings were used as a leprosy hospital until 1895, when the last 39 patients were transferred to Pleiestiftelsen Hospital. Two years later, the buildings were sold to the City of Bergen. The hospital was first used as an epidemic hospital, and from 1912 it was used as a tuberculosis hospital and was part of the new Haukeland Hospital. When the area used by the railway was being expanded in 1953, the old hospital building was demolished and the hilltop on which it stood flattened. Therefore, no traces of Lungegård Hospital remain today.

The oldest Lungegaard hospital. Photo: Reproduction photo Atelier Knud Knudsen. University of Bergen Library.

The first Lungegård Hospital

Lungegård Hospital’s first building was taken into use on 1 October 1849. The building was one of the state’s largest construction projects in the mid-1840s. The main building was a large timber building, with a cellar, two main floors, a loft and an iron roof.

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Lungegaard hospital. Cropped photo: Knud Knudsen. University of Bergen Library.

The new Lungegård Hospital

Shortly after Lungegård Hospital burned down in 1853, plans were made for a new hospital. It was to be a brick building, and the project was awarded to the architects H. E. Schirmer and Wilhelm von Hanno, who collaborated on the project.

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Drawing of the Lungegaard hospital 1853, cropped. Bergen City Archive.

The hospital’s cellar and rear buildings

A floor plan has been preserved of Lungegård Hospital’s cellar and rear buildings. Among other things, it shows how the bathrooms, which were an essential part of the treatment at the hospital, were fitted out.

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Pleiestiftelsen and Lungegaard hospital. Cropped photo: Knud Knudsen. University of Bergen Library.

Lungegård Hospital park

There was a large park around Lungegård Hospital where patients could spend time outdoors. The park extended all the way down to Store Lungegårdsvann bay, where there was also a boathouse and boats.

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A research hospital

Lungegård Hospital was the first of a new group of institutions that were built to enable Norway to gain control over the spread of leprosy, and it was the first state institution for leprosy. The hospital was to be both a sanatorium and a research institution.

A committee appointed in 1837 by the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, to investigate the leprosy situation in Norway proposed building sanitoriums and care institutions in Bergen, Molde, Bodø and Tromsø. This proved to be too expensive, so the committee proposed a more gradual development, and the decision was made in the early 1840s to build a sanatorium in Bergen: Lungegård Hospital. A few years later, the first of the planned care institutions was built: Pleiestiftelsen No. 1 in Bergen. The care institutions were for those who were too sick to be healed.

It may seem strange to establish a hospital for the treatment of leprosy patients, when we now know that a cure for the disease did not come until much later. At the time, however, numerous doctors, both in Norway and abroad, believed that patients could recover if they were treated early enough. Various treatments were tested, and the doctors were in regular contact and exchanged experiences with colleagues in other countries.

The first head physician at the hospital was Daniel Cornelius Danielssen, who was at that time a physician at St. Jørgen’s Hospital. He was to become one of the leading researchers on leprosy, both in Norway and internationally.

Appointment of Danielssen as chief physician in 1846. University of Bergen Library.

An eternal quest for a cure

Throughout his 40 years as a doctor at Lungegård Hospital, head physician Danielssen was on an eternal quest to find a cure for leprosy. He never gave up, even after testing a range of medication that proved to be ineffective, or even harmful.

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From the old laboratory at Pleiestiftelsen. Photo: Bergen City Museum. Objects belong to the Bergen Collections on the History of Medicine.

Medical trials at Lungegård Hospital

The hospital’s triennial reports often contain thorough descriptions of the testing of new types of medication, such as the Calabar bean from the west coast of Africa, cashew oil and hydroxylamine, a new substance with highly soluble toxic crystals.

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Glass cups used for bloodletting. Photo: Bergen City Museum.

Medicine, bathing and blood cupping

Head physician Danielssen swore by three forms of treatment: medication taken internally, bathing and blood cupping. The medication taken internally seems to have changed over time but was always combined with various forms of bathing and cupping.

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Accounting records. Regional State Archives of Bergen.

Dr Danielssens meat treatment

In the 1860s, Danielssen describes what he calls ‘a kind of meat treatment’. It seems he developed the treatment himself, as he does not refer to any others having used it. The meat treatment seems to primarily consist of a diet of milk, bread, meat soup and red wine.

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Illustration of the Gurjun tree from an old flora.

Application of gurjan oil

This is perhaps the most peculiar of all the treatments Danielssen describes. It was recommended by a Dr Dougall, and nine men were selected to trial the treatment, which involved them lubricating each other with oil for four hours each day in a locked room kept at 26–28°C.

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Notes from research on rabbits. Bergen City Archives.

Experiments on rabbits

At Lungegård Hospital, assistant physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen made a number of attempts to inoculate leprous material onto rabbits. There are a number of small handwritten notes from a couple of these experiments, all of which probably occurred in the summer of 1871.

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Weather observation records. Regional State Archives of Bergen.

Weather observations

Apart from an interval after the fire in 1853, weather observations were made more or less continuously from 1850 until at least 1892, when the last weather observation record from Lungegård Hospital ends. Four weather observation records have been preserved.

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Catalog of the medical book collection from the Lungegaard Hospital, 1904. University of Bergen Library.

Medical book collection

As a research hospital, Lungegård acquired a large collection of medical books that included everything from journals to major volumes, and from minor printed works in Norwegian to books from all over the world. In 1913, the collection consisted of more than 14,000 volumes.

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