Ointment jar from Svaneapoteket apothecary 

Ointment jar from Svaneapoteket apothecary. Photo: Bergen City Museum.

This ointment was prescribed to St. Jørgen’s Hospital on 1 April 1872. 

When we talk about the treatment of diseases today, we usually think of treatment as making the sick healthy, but this has not always been the case. The people who lived at St. Jørgen’s, who were treated with this ointment in the 1870s, did not recover, but nor was this something they probably gave much thought to either. 

Day-to-day treatment aimed to alleviate symptoms and relieve common ailments, and it was not until the first antibiotics came into use in the mid-20th century that an effective cure for leprosy was found. 

The use of ointment as a treatment dates back a long way. When the Danish scientist Fabricius described his visit to St. Jørgen’s Hospital in 1778, he gave an account of ointment being used to relieve itching: ‘Their subsistence in the hospital is also only moderate, they have, besides free subsistence, light and heat, four shillings a day to spend at will, but from which they must spend a small amount on plasters and ointments, to relieve the excruciating itching’. 

Photos: Bergen City Museum.

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